CERD decision in M.T. v. Estonia (excerpts), 2020

1. The petitioner is M.T., an Estonian national of Russian ethnicity, born in 1981. He claims that the State party violated his rights under article 2 (2) of the Convention. Estonia acceded to the Convention on 21 October 1991 and made the declaration under article 14 on 21 July 2010.

Facts as submitted by the petitioner

2.1 On 27 July 2016, the petitioner applied for a new identity card with the Police and Border Guard Board of Estonia. He requested that his patronym be included in the newly issued identity card. On 31 August 2016, the Police and Border Guard Board decided to issue the new identity card without including the patronym of the petitioner. The reason for the refusal of the petitioner’s request was the domestic legal provisions, which provide for
the inclusion of first and last names in identification documents. Inclusion of a patronym is not provided for.

2.2 On 20 September 2016, the petitioner appealed to the Tallinn Administrative Court, asking it to require the Police and Border Guard Board to issue an identity card with his patronym, citing the State party’s obligations under article 11 of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities of the Council of Europe,1 as well as concluding observations issued by the Committee. 2 On 23 February 2017, the Tallinn Administrative Court rejected the complaint. On 10 March 2017, the petitioner appealed against the judgment of the Tallinn Administrative Court at the Tallinn Circuit Court. On 15 November 2017, the Tallinn Circuit Court rejected the appeal. The reasoning of both courts was based on the following: domestic law, the Names Act and the Identity Documents Act in particular, does not provide for the possibility of including a patronym in an identification card; the Framework Convention is not directly applicable by the courts and applies only to the extent that it does not contradict domestic laws; and the recommendations of the Committee are not binding and the authorities decide which recommendations to implement. On 27 November 2017, the petitioner appealed to the Supreme Court, which rejected the appeal on 12 February 2018.

2.3 The petitioner claims that his ancestors were Russian Old Believers who settled in the territory of modern Estonia in the seventeenth century. For the past 300 years they had been preserving their language and national culture without being assimilated into the Estonian population. For these people, a full name without a patronym destroys their national identity and offends their national dignity. According to Russian traditions, the lack of a patronym in a full name is considered to be a sign of disrespect; it can imply that the person belongs to a lower social class and/or that his or her father is unknown.


3. In his submission before the Committee, the petitioner claims that his rights under article 2 (2) of the Convention were violated by the refusal of the State party to record his patronym in his identification document


Issues and proceedings before the Committee

Consideration of admissibility

6.1 Before considering any claim contained in a communication, the Committee must decide, pursuant to article 14 (7) (a) of the Convention, whether the communication is admissible.

6.2 The Committee notes the State party’s argument under rule 91, subparagraph (b), of the Committee’s rules of procedure that the petitioner has not claimed violation of any material provision of the Convention and therefore lacks victim status. It also notes the State party’s arguments under rule 91, subparagraph (c), of the rules of procedure that the communication is inadmissible ratione materiae, and its arguments under rule 91, subparagraph (e), that the petitioner failed to exhaust domestic remedies. The Committee also notes the petitioner’s arguments in disagreement with the observations of the State party and his claim that the impossibility to include his patronym in the identification document amounts to racial discrimination.

6.3 The Committee notes that the definition of racial discrimination in article 1 (1) of the Convention clearly states that a fundamental element of such discrimination is that it has the purpose or effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights or fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life. It is therefore necessary to establish whether the rights of the petitioner in the field of public life have been affected, and if so, which rights and/or freedoms are violated by the impossibility to include his patronym in the identification card. This brings the Committee to the State party’s first argument, under rule 91, subparagraph (b), of the rules of procedure, namely, that the petitioner has failed to indicate exactly which right protected by the Convention was violated in his case.

6.4 The Committee notes that the petitioner belongs to Russian minority, specifically, Russian Old Believers, to whom a patronym constitutes an essential part of the name. The Committee notes the petitioner’s claim that by not including his patronym in the identification document, the State party destroys his national identity and offends his national dignity, as part of the Old Believers community. At the same time, the Committee notes that, beyond this general claim, the petitioner did not furnish any concrete example whereby the lack of patronym in the identification card put him in an unequal position with respect to enjoying his rights in the field of public life, compared with other nationals of the State party. Neither has the petitioner provided concrete examples of negative effects that the lack of a patronym in the official identification document have had on his private relations within the Russian minority and in particular, the Russian Old Believers community.

6.5 In light of the above, the Committee finds that the petitioner has not presented sufficient indications to demonstrate that he was a victim of racial discrimination. The Committee considers that the petitioner has failed to sufficiently substantiate which rights under the Convention were violated in his regard, as required by rule 91, subparagraph (b), of its rules of procedure. Accordingly, it declares the communication inadmissible under article 14 (1) of the Convention. In light of this conclusion, the Committee decides that it is not necessary to examine any other inadmissibility ground invoked by the State party.

7. The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination therefore decides:

(a) That the communication is inadmissible;

(b) That the present decision shall be communicated to the State party and to the petitioner.

Document data: CERD/C/101/D/64/2018 adopted 06.08.2020, published 25.08.2020 Link: https://undocs.org/CERD/C/101/D/64/2018

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