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The Riigikogu deliberated infringements of fundamental rights and freedoms in Estonia and the situation of the Security Police Board and the Prosecutor’s Office as a matter of significant national importance initiated by the Estonian Centre Party Faction. Reports were by the Chairman of the Estonian Centre Party Faction Kadri Simson, the Deputy Mayor of Tallinn Kalle Klandorf and sworn advocate Leon Glikman.

Simson stated that, as at July, 444 383 persons have been entered in the punishment register in Estonia. “This statistics indicates that social relationships are over-criminalised or that too many matters are viewed as misdemeanours, and to the fact that, in the ascertaining of circumstances which is called “procedure” by specialists, the road of simplification, hurrying and agreement has been chosen. This is exactly what is formally meant by the so-called simplified proceeding, expedited procedure and compromise procedure widely practiced in the criminal procedure and misdemeanour procedure,” Simson said. She noted that the media also often reflects all possible violations of law disproportionately in comparison to other news. In Simson’s opinion, implementation of law is becoming like a conveyor belt, where power authorities, in order to hustle through their interest in proceedings, use legislative drafting to narrow down the proceeding opportunities of their opponents, as well as immediate intervention in the administration of justice and the influencing of the judges who decide on matters. “Let it be noted that, according to the statistics of recent years, only as few as 4% of criminal matters are heard pursuant to the so-called “general procedure”, that is, it is the usual way we imagine a court session. What makes the situation even more concerning is that, through power liaisons, the Prosecutor’s Office is able to hustle through nearly any amendment to an Act which is useful to it,” Simson added. Simson hinted that too low evidence standards are increasingly spreading in judicial practice where conviction may be based on arbitrary conclusions leading to unjustified conviction while reasonable alternative possibilities are ignored. Simson also criticised the practice of secret surveillance. “Unjustified and excessive restriction of personal freedoms is a red light in a wider meaning – we can see dangerous signs of people alienating from the state. We have reached this situation first of all because political power tries to use law enforcement authorities for achieving its political aims, that is, as a means in the political struggle. This aim can be achieved more easily if the legislation makes spying on citizens more and more handy and simple,” Simson continued. In her speech, Simson also made proposals to improve the situation:

security checks on judges – the regulation arising from §§ 54 and 541 of the Courts Act needs correction;

it would be feasible to establish a relevant special body or to reform the security police so that it would not participate immediately as an investigative body, either at all or to such an extent;

a more specific definition of the competence of the security police;

the State Liability Act needs to be specified because the bases of the state liability are unreasonably limited;

 it should be possible to initiate surveillance only on the basis of a judgment of a judge made with discretionary power and not by granting permission on a pre-printed form;

establishment of the institution of jury could be considered seriously.

“The task of the Riigikogu is not only to approve draft Acts which come with the interests of one party in mind, but to give a balanced consideration to the situation that has evolved by today,” Simson concluded.

Kalle Klandorf spoke about the practice which he had seen as the Deputy Mayor of Tallinn where city residents claim that the current situation of the legal activities of the state does not meet their expectations of a state based on the rule of law. Klandorf stated that people feel scared, their activeness in the Estonian state is inhibited by the activities of the state, and a general sense of fear of law enforcement authorities is rampant in the state. He noted that undemocratic tendencies are increasingly noticeable in the activities of the power authorities of the state, and less attention is paid to the rights of people which are written in the Constitution. In his speech, he discussed at length the Code of Criminal Procedure and its implications within the context of the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens, as well as the responsibility.

The sworn advocate Leon Glikman spoke in the deliberation as a legal expert. Glikman was of the opinion that, generally, law enforcement authorities have done a very good and decent work but the problem is that the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms affects in particular the ordinary persons who get stuck in the system. The problem lies first of all in the fact that our Acts which regulate criminal proceedings and our regulation of surveillance are not in conformity with the requirements of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and actually a totally new system of criminal procedure should be adopted. This would of course take a very long time but it is high time to introduce the most urgent changes,” Glikman said, and he called the Riigikogu to make the corresponding amendments. Glikman criticised the deficient Acts on proceedings, the pre-trial investigation reminiscent of the Inquisition, and the time-limits for investigation, but also the system of the compensation for damages and the regulations concerning taking into custody and surveillance.

Comments were presented by Members of the Riigikogu Igor Gräzin, Marko Pomerants, Kalle Laanet, Andres Anvelt, Mihhail Stalnuhhin, Aivar Riisalu and Peeter Võsa.

Due to the end of the working hours of the sitting, there was no time left for deliberation of the Bill on Amendments to the Riigikogu Election Act and Other Acts (186 SE), initiated by the Constitutional Committee, and it was postponed to the agenda of Wednesday (26 September).

For more details, read the verbatim record of the sitting (in Estonian):

The Riigikogu Press Service