2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices (excerpts), 2020

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

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E. DENIAL OF FAIR PUBLIC TRIAL

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.

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Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

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B. FREEDOMS OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY AND ASSOCIATION

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for freedom of peaceful assembly, and the government generally respected these freedoms.

The annual remembrance ceremony commemorating the World War II Battle of Sinimae mentioned in previous years’ reports again occurred. Three members of Parliament participated in the event.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

While the constitution provides for freedom of association, the law specifies that only citizens may join political parties. There were no restrictions on the ability of noncitizens to join other civil groups.

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G. STATELESS PERSONS

UNHCR categorized 77,877 persons residing in the country as stateless as of the end of 2018. As of January 1, according to government statistics, there were over 72,400 residents of undetermined citizenship, or 5.5 percent of the population. Nearly all were ethnic Russians, Ukrainians, or Belarusians. These persons are eligible to apply for naturalized citizenship, and some of them may hold Russian, Ukrainian or Belarusian citizenship.

There are statutory procedures that offer persons over the age of 18 opportunities for obtaining citizenship by naturalization, but some human rights observers regarded them as inadequate, and their rate of naturalization remained low. To facilitate acquisition of citizenship, authorities adopted such policies as funding civics and language courses and simplifying naturalization for persons with disabilities. The government also simplified the Estonian language requirements so that applicants older than 65 are no longer required to take a written language examination, although they still must pass an oral one. The government also provides citizenship, without any special application by the parents, to persons younger than 15 who were born in the country and whose parents were not citizens of Estonia or of any other country, and had lived in Estonia for five years at the time of the birth of the child.

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

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ELECTIONS AND POLITICAL PARTICIPATION

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Participation of Women and Minorities: No laws limit participation of women or members of minorities in the political process, and they did participate. The law allows only citizens to organize or join political parties.

Noncitizens who are long-term residents may vote in local elections but cannot vote in national elections or hold public office.

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Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

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CHILDREN

Birth Registration: Citizenship derives primarily from the citizenship of at least one parent. Either citizen parent may pass citizenship to a child regardless of the other parent’s citizenship status. Children born to parents who are not citizens of Estonia or of any other country and have lived in the country for five years, acquire citizenship at birth. Registration of births occurred in a timely manner.

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ANTI-SEMITISM

The Jewish community numbered an estimated 2,000 to 2,500 persons.

On March 16, the chief rabbi of Estonia was verbally attacked by a 27-year-old man under the influence of drugs, who insulted the rabbi and shouted anti-Semitic remarks in the center of the capital. The perpetrator was sentenced to eight days in prison for the offense. The prime minister condemned the incident, stating that discrimination based on religion, nationality, origin, or any other reason was totally unacceptable.

On June 23, unknown vandals knocked over and vandalized five gravestones at the Rahumae Jewish Cemetery in the capital. Police opened a criminal investigation which was pending at year’s end.

On January 28, the government held an annual memorial event on Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Rahumae Jewish Cemetery in Tallinn. Schools participated in commemorative activities throughout the country. The Education and Research Ministry, in cooperation with the Estonian Jewish community, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the Estonian Memory Institute, and the Museum of Occupation, organized an essay writing competition on topics related to the Holocaust for schoolchildren.

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NATIONAL/RACIAL/ETHNIC MINORITIES

In 2018 police registered five cases of physical abuse, breach of public order, or threats that included hatred against persons from racial or ethnic minorities.

On March 26, police opened investigations regarding a verbal attack and an attempted physical attack against two persons of color by four men in the center of Tartu. The investigations were pending at the end of the year.

Members of the Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE, a part of the governing coalition) made derogatory and racist public statements regarding ethnic minorities, immigrants, refugees, women, and the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community. Of note, during parliamentary swearing-in ceremonies, members of parliament from EKRE made hand gestures associated with white nationalism. No disciplinary action was taken. Also notable, an EKRE member of the European parliament also referenced the Holocaust and “the final solution” in a social media post on how best to handle refugees living in Europe.

Knowledge of Estonian is required to obtain citizenship, and all public servants and public-sector employees, service personnel, medical professionals, and other workers who have contact with the public must possess a minimum competence in the language. Russian speakers stated that Estonian language requirements resulted in job and salary discrimination. The government continued to provide free and subsidized opportunities for Estonian language learning.

In districts where more than half the population spoke a language other than Estonian, the law entitles inhabitants to receive official information in their language, and authorities respected the law.

Roma, who numbered fewer than 1,000, reportedly faced discrimination in several areas, including employment. The government took steps to emphasize the importance of education for Romani children, but their school dropout rate remained high.

Nonwhite residents reported discrimination in housing. The government faced difficulties finding housing for resettled refugees, which refugee advocates attributed to societal discrimination.

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Section 7. Worker Rights

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D. DISCRIMINATION WITH RESPECT TO EMPLOYMENT AND OCCUPATION

The law prohibits discrimination in respect of employment and occupation. The government generally enforced the law prohibiting discrimination in employment and occupation, and penalties were sufficient to deter violations. If workers claimed discrimination and turned to the courts, and the Labor Inspectorate or gender equality commissioner and the appropriate institution found the suit justified, workers were indemnified by employers. With respect to employment or occupation, labor laws and regulations require employers to protect employees against discrimination, follow the principle of equal treatment, and promote equal treatment and gender equality. Nevertheless, discrimination in employment or occupation occurred with respect to age, gender, disability, ethnicity, and language (see section 6), and there were complaints to the gender and equal treatment commissioner, the legal chancellor, and the Labor Inspectorate.

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Russian speakers worked disproportionately in blue-collar industries and continued to experience higher unemployment than ethnic Estonians. Some citizens and noncitizen residents, particularly native speakers of Russian, alleged that the language requirement resulted in job and salary discrimination. Roma reportedly faced discrimination in employment (see section 6, National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities).


Document data: 11.02.2020 Link: https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/estonia/

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