Estonia

Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:

a. Arbitrary Deprivation of Life and Other Unlawful or Politically Motivated Killings

There were no reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings.

b. Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearances by or on behalf of government authorities.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The law prohibits such practices, but there were reports that police used excessive physical force and verbal abuse during the arrest and questioning of some suspects. The number of cases brought against police officers for excessive use of force declined from previous years. In 2016, authorities filed three cases against police officers for excessive use of force. During the first seven months of the year, there was one court case against a former police officer. A police officer threatened and physically assaulted one young man and used excessive force against another. On June 30, the Parnu County Court found a police officer guilty of using excessive force in 2016, sentencing the officer conditionally to 18 months in prison with two years’ probation and requiring him to complete a social program.

Prison and Detention Center Conditions

There were no significant reports regarding prison or detention center conditions that raised human rights concerns.

Physical Conditions: In inspecting several institutions during the year, the legal chancellor found a number of deficiencies in prison and detention center conditions, particularly in the latter where officials held detainees for short periods. Some facilities were inadequate in terms of the availability of medical care and fire safety. The continuing use of the worn, outdated Soviet-era prison in Tallinn for a large number of prisoners remained a problem. Recreational facilities in the prison were few and in poor condition. The legal chancellor reported inmates did not have sufficient access to legal documentation in some prisons and detention centers and that there were shortcomings in the application of restraints, including handcuffs, as well as excessive video surveillance and inadequate documentation of the medical condition of detainees.

Independent Monitoring: The government generally permitted monitoring by independent nongovernmental observers, including human rights groups, the media, and international bodies.

d. Arbitrary Arrest or Detention

The constitution and laws prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention and provide for the right of any person to challenge the lawfulness of his/her detention in court, and the government generally observed these prohibitions.

ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS

The Police and Border Guard Board and the Internal Security Service maintain internal security. The army is responsible for external security but also has some domestic security responsibilities. The Police and Border Guard Board and the Internal Security Service report to the Ministry of the Interior. The Estonian Defense Forces report to the Ministry of Defense. The Prosecutor’s Office leads investigations and prosecutes cases in court. The Police and Border Guard Board and the Internal Security Service investigate civilian cases, while the military police investigate defense force cases. The government has effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption. There were no reports of impunity involving the security forces during the year.

Civilian authorities maintained effective control over the Police and Border Guard Board, the Internal Security Service, and the army, and the government has effective mechanisms to investigate abuse. There were no reports of impunity during the year.

ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES

Apart from those arrested during the commission of a crime, the law requires that in making arrests, authorities must possess warrants issued by a court based on evidence and must inform detainees promptly of the grounds for their arrest. There is a functioning bail system and other alternatives for provisional release pending trial. Authorities may hold individuals for 48 hours without charge; further detention requires a court order. Police generally complied with these requirements. Criminal procedure rules provide for a maximum detention of two months during preliminary investigations in cases where the accused is a minor and four months in cases of second-degree (less serious) crimes. Detainees are entitled to immediate access to legal counsel, and the government pays for legal counsel for indigent persons. There were no reports that authorities held individuals incommunicado or under house arrest.

Detainee’s Ability to Challenge Lawfulness of Detention before a Court: Persons arrested or detained, regardless of whether on criminal or other grounds, are entitled to challenge in court the legal basis or arbitrary nature of their detention and obtain compensation if found to have been unlawfully detained.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the government generally respected judicial independence and impartiality.

TRIAL PROCEDURES

The constitution provides for the right to a fair public trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right.

Defendants enjoy the right to a presumption of innocence, prompt and detailed notification of the charges (with free interpretation if necessary), a fair and public trial without undue delay, presence at their trial, communication with an attorney of choice, adequate time and facilities to prepare a defense, free interpretation as necessary from the moment charged through all appeals, as well as the right to confront prosecution or plaintiff witnesses and to present one’s own witnesses and evidence. Defendants cannot be compelled to testify or confess guilt and have the right to appeal. A single judge, a judge together with public assessors, or a committee of judges may hear cases. In criminal proceedings, an attorney is available to all defendants at public expense, although individuals often preferred to hire their own attorneys. In civil proceedings the government provides an attorney for indigents. Authorities generally respected these rights and extended them to all residents regardless of citizenship.

POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES

There were no reports of political prisoners or detainees.

CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES

Individuals or organizations may seek civil remedies for human rights violations in domestic courts. They may appeal unfavorable decisions to the European Court for Human Rights after exhausting all domestic remedies.

PROPERTY RESTITUTION

The government has laws and mechanisms in place for property restitution, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and advocacy groups reported no issues with the government’s resolution of Holocaust-era claims, including for foreign citizens.

f. Arbitrary or Unlawful Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence

The constitution prohibits such actions, and there were no reports that the government failed to respect these prohibitions.

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The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future