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Amnesty International Report 2006 - Estonia

Publisher Amnesty International
Publication Date 23 May 2006
Cite as Amnesty International, Amnesty International Report 2006 - Estonia , 23 May 2006, available at: [accessed 24 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

A report published by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) documented a number of positive developments, but some areas of concern remained. The Council of Europe's Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities issued a report also noting progress, while continuing to express concerns about the treatment of non-nationals and national minorities in Estonia. Many residents continued to live in the country without citizenship and as a result often faced discriminatory practices, particularly in the fields of education and labour and language rights.

Torture and ill-treatment

In April, the CPT published a report based on the findings of a visit to the country by a CPT delegation in 2003.

The CPT delegation recorded that it had received very few reports of ill-treatment in detention. However, there were a number of allegations that people had been punched, kicked or hit with batons at the time of detention. The CPT recommended that "no more force than is reasonably necessary" should be used during apprehension.

The CPT report expressed concern about conditions of detention which could amount to inhuman or degrading treatment at the Kohtla-Järve and Narva detention centres. Detainees were locked up for 24 hours a day in cells that were generally dirty, badly lit and ventilated, and overcrowded.

Other concerns raised by the CPT included: the absence of special provisions for detaining juveniles and the failure to house them separately from adults; the absence in national law of an explicit legal right of detainees to notify a third party of their detention; and the lack of prompt medical screening of detainees on arrival in detention facilities.

In response to reports of beatings of inmates in the Tartu prison by masked members of a special squad in May 2003, the CPT recommended independent monitoring of any future activity by special intervention squads in prisons.

Ethnic minorities

In February, the Council of Europe's Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities noted that Estonia had taken certain legal and administrative steps to make the naturalization process more accessible and streamlined, and that the rate of naturalization had recently increased. However, it also noted that 150,536 people were living in Estonia without citizenship at the end of 2004, a figure which the Committee described as disconcertingly high.

The Committee noted that non-citizens were not properly protected under current legislation and recommended that Estonia introduce anti-discrimination laws which included adequate legal safeguards for non-citizens. It also encouraged the authorities to make naturalization more accessible. Such measures would include pursuing the proposals to exempt elderly applicants from language requirements under the Citizenship Act.

The Committee expressed concern that national minorities did not have a legal right to communicate with the authorities in a minority language free of charge. It also pointed out that regulations only allowed written documentation to be submitted in a minority language in local government units where more than half of the population belonged to a national minority. The Committee considered this to be an excessively high threshold.

The Committee recommended that teaching of Estonian in secondary schools should be pursued in a way that did not harm the quality of education provided to members of national minorities or limit their access to higher education.

The Committee also expressed concern that members of national minorities, especially young women, experienced higher levels of unemployment than other groups. The Committee called on authorities to ensure that national minorities were not subjected to direct or indirect discrimination in the labour market. The Committee also recommended that the authorities review the suitability of existing language proficiency requirements in all sectors of employment to ensure that they were realistic and proportionate and did not have a discriminatory effect.

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