MINELRES: IHF: Estonian Authorities Must Investigate Allegations of Police Brutality during War Memorial Riots

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Wed May 2 19:15:32 2007

Original sender: Paula Tscherne-Lempiainen <tscherne@ihf-hr.org>

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights 

Estonian Authorities Must Investigate Allegations of Police Brutality
during War Memorial Riots

Vienna, 30 April 2007. The International Helsinki Federation for Human
Rights (IHF) is calling on the Estonian authorities to investigate in a
through and impartial manner allegations of police brutality during the
recent wave of riots in the country and to ensure that any further riots
are dealt with strictly in accordance with international standards.

Violent protests broke out in Tallinn on 26 April over a decision by the
Estonian government to remove a Soviet war memorial in the centre of the
capital. During two nights of riots, mostly Russian-speaking youth
clashed with police, looted shops and vandalized property. Police
responded with e.g. tear gas, flash bombs and water cannon and arrested
about 1,000 people. One man was stabbed to death and dozens were injured
in the riots. In the night 28-29 April, protests spread to predominantly
Russian-speaking cities in northeast Estonia.

According to media reports as well as reports received by the IHF,
police in some cases used disproportionate force against riot
participants. Some protesters were reportedly hit with batons, beaten
and mistreated after being taken into custody in a temporary detention
facility established in a terminal at the Tallinn port. Some cases of
apparent police brutality were documented by TV broadcasts and cell
phone recordings. 

While it is the task of law enforcement authorities to maintain public
order and guarantee the safety of citizens, they have an obligation
under international standards not to use force except when strictly
necessary and only to the extent required for the performance of their
duty.  They may only resort to the use of force if other means remain
ineffective or without any promise of achieving the intended result. 
Cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment is prohibited by international law
at all times. 

The riots in Tallinn and other Estonian cities have served to highlight
remaining problems relating to the integration of the country's
Russian-speaking minority, which constitutes about one third of the 1.4
million residents. Despite a number of important legislative reforms
since the first years of independence, this minority is still not
officially recognized as a linguistic minority and continues to face
discrimination and exclusion in everyday life, thus fostering
frustration and resentment among its members. Many Russian-speakers
still lack Estonian citizenship, Russian-language education has
gradually been reduced and stringent language requirements restrict
access to the labor market for Russian-speakers. 

For more information:

Aaron Rhodes, IHF Executive Director, +43-676-635 66 12; 
Henriette Schroeder, IHF Press Officer, +43-676-725 48

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