Estonia must investigate human rights violations committed during riots in Tallinn

09/05/2007
Press release

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Latvian Human Rights Committee (LHRC), its member organization in Latvia, express their concern about the human right violations perpetrated both by demonstrators and police during riots in Estonia that left one person dead and more than 150 people injured.

On 26 April in Tallinn (Estonia) clashes sparked between the demonstrators (mostly representatives of Russian minority), who protested against the controversial removal of the World War II Soviet Army monument and the police using tear gas, batons, flash bombs, water cannon etc. After the monument was moved to a military cemetery in a suburb, a wave of vandalism broke out in Tallinn on 26 - 27 April.

According to reports of witnesses, the police in some cases used disproportionate force not only against riot participants but also against peaceful demonstrators and even against passers-by. Some people 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.

On 27 April the security police arrested several leaders of the Night Watch (the organization opposing the removal of the monument by peaceful means), including 18-year-old anti-racist activist Mark Siryk, who due to illness and preparing for school exam did not participate even in the peaceful demonstration on 26 April.
Since then, the Estonian embassy in Moscow has been under siege by Russian demonstrators and diplomatic relations between the two countries are in profound crisis.

FIDH and LHRC condemn acts of vandalism perpetrated by demonstrators in Tallinn, as well as the blockage of the Estonian embassy in Moscow.

FIDH and LHRC urge the Estonian authorities to investigate all acts of human rights violations committed during riots and the police brutality, excessive use of force and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment in an impartial way and remind that the right to a fair trial must be fully guaranteed. Their also call upon the Estonian authorities to put an end to any practice of discrimination against the Russian-speaking minority, which constitutes about 30% of the Estonian population, and to conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination. More generally, FIDH and LHRC ask Estonian and Russian authorities to avoid any action which would aggravate the violence.

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