Toomas H. Ilves
President of the Republic of Estonia
Member of Advisory Board of Estonian Institute of Human Rights
Dear Mr. President,
Dear Mr. Member of the Board of Estonian Institute of Human Rights,
Thank you for the invitation to take part in the conference "New Challenges for Human Rights", which was held in Tallinn on December 10, 2012, the International Human Rights Day, and was organized by the Estonian Institute of Human Rights.
Despite the fact that I, as well as three other members of our organization who have received an invitation from you, were notified on behalf of the Institute on the eve of the event that our names were missing from the list of invitees, I was still allowed to participate in the meeting.
I am grateful for that to the executive director of the Institute, Ms. Aet Kukk, who not only allowed me to attend, despite the absence of my name on the guest list, but who also appointed a sort of "assistant", who, in every sense of the word, did not leave me for a moment and preferred to stand next to me even when I was giving an interview to the media or talking with other participants.
The conference theme is very important in today's changing world. Unfortunately, none of the speakers had said anything about human rights challenges in Estonia itself. They talked about the problems in the Arab world, Africa, China, India, Russia and other countries. Such problems are definitely there, and it was right to talk about it, but to not say a word about the situation in the host country is nonsense and impossible situation for any human rights conference, especially the one devoted to such an important topic!
Moreover, my attempts to ask the speakers about what they think of the situation with human rights in Estonia were thwarted by the moderator of the last session of the conference, Mr. Hannes Hanso. The format of the conference did not provide for any other possibilities to speak up.
Thus, the participants got the impression that everything is perfect with the human rights situation in Estonia, and this is a free country that is at the peak of the struggle for human rights around the world.
Because I believe that there still are problems with human rights in Estonia, and because I was not given the opportunity to get more information directly from the speakers, not to mention the opportunity to be a speaker, I address my questions to you and hope that you, despite your busy schedule, will provide the answers:
1. Is it true that the Estonian legislation regards as minorities only citizens of the Estonian Republic and does not include in this category non-citizens that permanently reside in Estonia (a unique category of permanent residents, available only in Estonia and Latvia) and citizens of other countries? Meanwhile, your country has more than 200,000 residents - members of national minorities who are not citizens of Estonia and de jure are withdrawn from the application of the Estonian legislation that guarantees the rights of national minorities. Furthermore, they are not covered under the recommendations of international organizations, such as The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, the European Convention against Racism and Intolerance, etc. In my opinion this "trick" allows to not apply the rules of law and the recommendations of the Council of Europe in areas with large numbers of minority residents. For example, in Narva, where de facto minorities represent more than 80% of the population, de jure there are less than 50% of representatives of the non-titular nations. As a consequence, the provisions of the law on the rights of minorities are not met in Narva, while, on paper, everything is legitimate.
2. How do you explain the active reluctance on part of the government to let Russian language schools teach in Russian, if the boards of trustees of such schools and the municipality have expressed a desire to do so? Does this mean discrimination of Russian-speaking people in the country? Why some initiators of the campaign for the Russian language in those schools (Alice Blintsova, Oleg Besedin) have criminal cases opened against them, although the charges do not hold water? Why do many of the activists in defense of Russian language schools have suffered from discrimination in the workplace, in particular, Alice Blintsova, who fights for the right for her child to learn in school in the native language, was fired from her doctorate job? Why the Security Police of Estonia (Security Police) intervenes in this case and puts blatant pressure on school principals?
3. How do you feel about the campaign to glorify Nazism in Estonia? I am talking about the annual meetings of SS veterans and people sharing the Nazi views from all over the world. These meetings have the status of public events and are widely used for glorification of the members of military units of Wehrmacht and SS, and to incite hatred against the Russian-speaking population.
4. What is your opinion about the annual publications by the Security Police of the List of people are dangerous to the constitutional order of Estonia? Do not you think that an element of pressure on the community from the side of intelligence of your country? Do you agree with the fact that in reality the publication of a list of so-called "enemies of Estonia" in the yearbook Capo is an attempt to discredit the opposition by the secret services and the signal for the start of the public campaign against them. So, at different times in the lists were the leaders of the opposition MPs Yana Toom and Michael Stalnuhin, Deputy Mayor of Tallinn Michael Kylvart who experienced problems after that in his political and social activities.
I am confident that you, gentlemen, are aware of these facts and will be able to give quite competent answers to these questions.
With kind regards and best wishes,
Valery Engel, Ph.D.
of the IHRM "World without Nazism"
December 13, 2012.