Estonia is a Member State of the Council of Europe (COE) and of the United Nations (UN), and has human rights obligations at the regional and universal levels.
Regional: European System
As a Member of the COE, Estonia has ratified the European Convention on Human Rights and is subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. Estonia has ratified the Revised European Social Charter, but has not authorized the European Committee of Social Rights to decide collective complaints against it. Estonia’s human rights policies and practices are also monitored by the COE Commissioner for Human Rights, who identifies gaps in human rights protection, conducts country visits, engages in dialogue with States, and prepares thematic reports and advice.
Individuals and groups have submitted complaints of human rights violations committed by Estonia to the European Court of Human Rights. For example, the Court found that an individual was subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment when he was violently restrained by prison officers after refusing to comply with their orders. See ECtHR, Tali v. Estonia, no. 66393/10, ECHR 2014, Judgment of 13 February 2014. Additionally, the Court may grant interim measures to protect people in urgent situations of risk in Estonia.
As a State party to the Revised European Social Charter, Estonia must submit yearly reports to the European Committee of Social Rights on its implementation of the Charter’s provisions.
Estonia is party to the following regional human rights treaties:
- European Convention on Human Rights and several of its protocols
- Revised European Social Charter
- COE Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence
- COE Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings
- European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
- Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
United Nations System
As a UN Member State, Estonia is subject to the oversight of various UN human rights bodies, including the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review and thematic special procedures. As a party to specific universal human rights treaties, Estonia’s policies and practices are monitored by UN treaty bodies. It has accepted the complaints procedure of three treaty bodies.
Estonia has ratified the following UN human rights treaties:
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
- Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
- Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
- International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
Estonia has submitted a declaration that modifies its obligations under the CRPD.
Estonia has also ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR aimed at abolishing the death penalty, and optional protocols to the CRC addressing children in armed conflict and the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography. Estonia has a duty to submit State reports to the UN treaty body associated with each UN human rights treaty Estonia has ratified. These reports must be submitted on a periodic basis and describe the steps Estonia has taken to implement the treaty provisions.
Estonia has also ratified optional protocols or made appropriate declarations allowing individuals to submit complaints against the State alleging violations of the ICCPR, CRPD, and CERD. Additionally, certain UN treaties contain inquiry procedures, which allow the UN treaty body to consider allegations of grave or systematic human rights violations. Estonia has accepted the inquiry procedures of the CAT and CRPD.
In March 2001, Estonia extended a standing invitation to UN special procedures, which means that any such mandate holders are welcome to conduct visits in Estonia. For example, the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography went on a mission to Estonia in October 2008 and published a visit report in July 2009.
For more information on Estonia’s engagement with UN human rights bodies, visit http://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/EEIndex.aspx.
Last updated: January 2020