At least four men were sentenced to death and at least nine other prisoners were believed to be on death row at the end of the year, three of them having spent over three years in isolation. In April, Estonia ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms without its additional Protocol No. 6 which abolishes the death penalty in peacetime. Estonia had signed the Convention and its Protocol No. 6 in May 1993, when it became a member of the Council of Europe, and therefore, under international law, may not carry out executions pending a decision on ratification. In June, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe called upon Estonia to abolish the death penalty "as soon as possible". In November, Estonia ratified the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. In December, parliament adopted an amendment to the criminal code allowing courts to impose life imprisonment as an alternative to the death penalty. A proposal to abolish the death penalty was rejected. Three prisoners – Andrean Ojala, Albert Solodov and Oleg Borisov – were sentenced to death in February for robbery and murder. An appeal against their sentence was reportedly rejected in May. At least 10 other prisoners were believed to be on death row at the end of the year, three of whom had spent over three years in isolation and were still awaiting the outcome of appeals for clemency submitted to President Lennart Meri in 1993 and 1994. Amnesty International believes that prolonged isolation could have serious effects on the physical and mental health of the prisoners and might constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Amnesty International appealed to the authorities to abolish the death penalty and commute all pending death sentences, and expressed concern about the prolonged isolation in which death-row prisoners were held. In June, the Deputy Prosecutor General responded that prisoners on death row were isolated for their own protection. He also informed the organization that the prison authorities had submitted an appeal to the National Court for commutation of the death sentence passed on death row prisoner Vladimir Botchko. In October, Amnesty International urged the authorities to explore ways of alleviating the effects of isolation on death-row prisoners without compromising their security, and requested information on the progress of the appeal on behalf of Vladimir Botchko. In November, the organization was informed by the Chairman of the National Court that no such appeal had been filed.

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