1. The Committee considered
the initial report of Estonia (CCPR/C/81/Add.5 and HRI/CORE/1/Add.50)
at its 1455th and 1459th meetings, on 23 and 25 October 1995 (see CCPR/C/SR.1455
and 1459) and adopted At its 1471st meeting (fifty-fifth session),
held on 2 November 1995. the following Observations:
2. The Committee welcomes
the initial report of Estonia and expresses its appreciation for the frank
and constructive dialogue engaged with the delegation. The Committee however
regrets that, although the report provided comprehensive information on
prevailing legislation in the field of human rights, no mention was made
as to how the Covenant is implemented in practice. The information and
the answers given orally by the delegation to the questions raised by
members of the Committee somewhat covered those deficiencies, and enabled
the Committee to obtain a clearer picture of the situation of human rights
in the country.
B. Factors and difficulties affecting the implementation of the Covenant
3. The Committee notes that
it is necessary to overcome vestiges of the totalitarian past and that
much remains to be done to strengthen democratic institutions and respect
for the rule of law. It regrets that the Government's efforts in restructuring
the legal system and endeavouring to better implement the Covenant have
been hampered by lacunae in some existing legislation, and that a number
of principles set forth in the 1992 Constitution were not yet implemented
by corresponding laws.
4. The Committee notes that
at the time of the restoration of independence, there existed in Estonia
a significantly large proportion of permanent residents belonging to minorities.
The policy of the Government with regard to naturalization and citizenship
has raised a number of difficulties which affect the implementation of
C. Positive aspects
5. The Committee expresses
its satisfaction at the fundamental and positive changes which have taken
place in Estonia, that provide for a better political, constitutional
and legal framework for the implementation of the rights enshrined in
6. Estonia's accession to
the Covenant and other human rights instruments, soon after its restoration
of independence, confirms the genuine commitment of the State party to
guarantee the basic human rights to all individuals under its jurisdiction.
The recognition by Estonia of the competence of the Committee to receive
and consider communications from individuals under the Optional Protocol
to the Covenant is of particular importance for the effective implementation
of the Covenant.
7. The Committee expresses
its satisfaction that in the new Criminal Code which is being drafted,
no death penalty is provided and welcomes Estonia's intention to accede
to the Second Optional Protocol in the near future.
8. The Committee welcomes
the adoption by referendum of a new Constitution, which provides in its
articles 3 and 123 that universally recognized principles and norms of
international law as well as human rights treaties, including the Covenant,
shall be incorporated into the domestic legal order and, upon ratification,
are given precedence over inconsistent domestic legal provisions.
9. The adoption of a new Law
on Courts as well as the reform of the "Prokuratura" constitute
a step forward towards securing the independence and impartiality of the
D. Principal subjects of concern
10. The Committee is concerned
at the lack of legislative provisions to implement articles 3 and 123
of the Constitution, which affects the Covenant's effective precedence
over any inconsistent legislative act. It also remains unclear for the
Committee whether a provision of domestic law can be declared null and
void if it contradicts the Covenant.
11. The Committee notes with
concern that no legislation has yet been adopted regarding the right to
compensation for citizens whose rights have been violated by the State
or by unlawful behaviour of officials.
12. The Committee expresses
its concern that a significantly large segment of the population, particularly
members of the Russian-speaking minority, are unable to enjoy Estonian
citizenship due to the plethora of criteria established by law, and the
stringency of language criterion, and that no remedy is available against
an administrative decision rejecting the request for naturalization under
the Citizenship Law.
13. Noting that the numerous
rights and prerogatives, such as the right to participate in the process
of land privatization and the right to occupy certain posts or practise
some occupations, are granted solely to Estonian citizens, the Committee
is concerned that permanent residents who are non-citizens are thus deprived
of a number of rights under the Covenant.
14. The Committee is concerned
that the conditions for appointment to or employment in any position in
a State or local government agency in particular the automatic exclusion
of persons unable to satisfy the requirements of the written oath of conscience
regarding their previous activities (under the former regime) may give
rise to an unreasonable restriction on the right of access to public service
15. With regard to article
3 of the Covenant, the Committee regrets the limited information it received
as to the de facto situation of women in Estonia.
16. With regard to article
4 of the Covenant, the Committee notes that, although there are provisions
in the Constitution relating to the imposition of state of emergency,
no legislation has yet been adopted in conformity with the requirements
in the Covenant.
17. The Committee is concerned
that the death penalty can still be imposed in Estonia for crimes which
cannot be qualified as the most serious crimes under article 6 of the
Covenant. Moreover, the Committee notes with concern that, despite the
drafting of a new Criminal Code that will abolish capital punishment,
recent amendments to the current Criminal Code have added two more crimes
to the list of those punished by capital punishment.
18. The Committee notes that
the definition of torture in article 114 of the Criminal Code is limited
to physical force and does not encompass psychological torture and duress.
19. The Committee is concerned
about cases of excessive use of force by law enforcement officials as
well as mistreatment of detainees. It is of particular concern to the
Committee that punitive measures, such as solitary detention, may be imposed
on juvenile detainees. The Committee notes that the law enforcement system
will only be able to function properly when a sufficient number of well-trained
police and prison officers are appointed.
20. The Committee is deeply
concerned by the fact, as confirmed by the State party in its report,
that "prison facilities are overcrowded and that many inmates are
subject to unhealthy living conditions". It further regrets that
it did not receive sufficient information which would have enabled it
to examine the extent to which the State party is in violation of articles
7 and 10 of the Covenant. The Committee further notes with concern that
it was not provided with information regarding separation of accused persons
from convicted persons, as required under article 10, paragraph 2 (a),
of the Covenant.
21. The Committee is concerned
that, as a result of the lack of domestic legislation and procedures governing
the treatment of asylum-seekers and the determination of their status,
the Government has too often resorted to measures of deprivation of liberty.
22. The Committee expresses
concern at limitations to the exercise of freedom of association for long-term
permanent residents in Estonia, particularly in the political sphere.
23. The Committee is deeply
concerned at the definition of minorities in the Estonian legislation,
which only encompasses national minorities, thus restricting the application
of the Law on Cultural Autonomy by excluding permanent residents from
full participation in minority groups.
E. Suggestions and recommendations
24. The Committee recommends
that necessary measures be taken to ensure that all domestic provisions
inconsistent with the Covenant be repealed and that laws adopted be in
full compliance with the provisions of the Covenant. Regarding the actual
application of the Covenant, the Committee requests the State party to
indicate in its second periodic report any instances where the Covenant
was directly invoked before the courts, as well as about the related results.
25. The Committee recommends
that the State party review and include information in its next periodic
report on the procedures established to ensure compliance with the views
and recommendations adopted by the Committee under the Optional Protocol
to the Covenant, also bearing in mind the obligations under article 2
of the Covenant.
26. With regard to article
2 of the Covenant, the Committee recommends that all provisions in domestic
law discriminating against non-citizens be systematically reviewed and
brought into line with articles 2 and 26 of the Covenant.
27. The Committee recommends
that the State party review the Law on the Implementation of the Constitution
with regard to the obligation to take an oath of conscience, with a view
to bring the Law fully into line with non-discrimination provisions and
article 25 of the Covenant and provide for the right to an effective remedy
against a decision not to appoint or dismiss a person in case of refusal
to take such oath.
28. The Committee recommends
that laws be adopted to enable victims of violation of the rights guaranteed
under the Covenant to be effectively compensated under domestic law.
29. The Committee recommends
that information on the situation of women be provided in the second periodic
report, and, more generally, that necessary steps be taken to include
appropriate programmes in formal and informal education in order to achieve
equality between the sexes.
30. The Committee urges the
State party to enact legislation in conformity with the provisions of
article 4 of the Covenant.
31. The Committee urges the
Government to reduce substantially the number of crimes for which the
death penalty may be imposed, in accordance with article 6 of the Covenant
pending the adoption of the new Criminal Code that will abolish the death
32. With regard to article
7 of the Covenant, the Committee strongly recommends that article 114
of the Criminal Code be reviewed so as to ensure its compliance with the
broader scope of torture under the Covenant, and calls the attention of
the authorities to its General Comment No. 20 (44).
33. The Committee urges the
State party to take immediate steps to ensure that all persons deprived
of their liberty are treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent
dignity of the human person in conformity with articles 7 and 10 of the
34. The Committee emphasizes
the need for effective control over the police and the prison officials.
Intensive training and education programmes in the field of human rights
for law enforcement officials as well as for prison officials are recommended
to ensure their observance of the Covenant and other international instruments.
35. The Committee recommends
that the Government of Estonia adopts domestic legislation governing the
treatment of asylum-seekers in compliance with the Covenant. In that regard,
the Committee further recommends that the Government seek assistance from
international organizations including the Office of the United Nations
High Commissioner for Refugees and consider acceding to the 1951 Refugees
Convention as well as the 1967 Protocol thereto.
36. With respect to the rights
of minorities, the Committee strongly recommends that national legislation
be amended to bring within the scope of the Law on Cultural Autonomy all
minorities contained in article 27 of the Covenant and draws attention
of the authorities to its General Comment No. 23(50).
37. The Committee recommends
that the Covenant, the Optional Protocol and the Committee's comments
be widely disseminated in Estonia. Additionally, the Committee recommends
that human rights education be provided in school at all levels and comprehensive
human rights training be provided to all segments of the population, including
law enforcement officers and all persons involved in the administration
of justice. In this regard, the Committee suggests that the State party
avail itself of the technical cooperation services of the United Nations
Centre for Human Rights.