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Estonian minister: Amnesty International citing false allegations

05.06.2008

TALLINN, Jun 05, BNS - Estonia's Foreign Minister Urmas Paet expressed regret on Thursday that the international human rights organization Amnesty International (AI) had in its report on Estonia for 2007 cited incorrect allegations.

Amnesty International is free in its evaluations and use of sources, yet it is regrettable that AI is basing its evaluations on inadequate claims by sources having a hostile attitude toward Estonia, Paet said in his comments to BNS.

AI said in the report that in 2007, linguistic minorities in Estonia continued to experience discrimination, particularly in employment, despite improved access to free Estonian language classes and the government's prioritization of socio-economic integration.

It argued thay discrimination, particularly in employment, affected some 420,000 people or approximately 30 percent of the population.

Paet said that if there are reproaches, one has to bring them together with examples.

"Making generalizations on the basis of a few cases where people have not considered it necessary to learn the language is misplaced, and on its basis no conclusions can be made about 420,000 people. Estonia has adopted a new integration plan which encompasses socio-economic, cultural and educational, as well as legal and political topics alike," the minister said.

He said that integration was a two-way process and improving the situation of people of other ethnic backgrounds on the labor market was one of the priorities of the integration plan. Several international organizations, including the UN and the Council of Europe, have recognized Estonia's efforts in that direction, Paet said.

"Yet good proficiency in the Estonian language is important in order to ensure equal opportunities and competitiveness on the labor market and in education," he said.

In the part of the report dealing with the mass riots by Russian-speaking young people in last April, AI said there were several reports of peaceful protesters being beaten by police at various locations in Tallinn. There were also reports that peaceful demonstrators were ill-treated and insulted when arrested during the demonstrations.

Commenting on these disturbances, the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) recommended that Estonia should promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigate all allegations of brutality and excessive use of force by law enforcement personnel and bring the perpetrators to justice, said AI.

"As regards mistreatment during the April events, the accusation is inadequate, as none of the mentioned cases have been proved. Estonia is a country of rule of law where all complaints are reviewed and solved in accordance with the law," Paet said.

AI in its report also cited an opinion of the Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights from last July that deplorable living conditions in Estonian prisons amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment. It added that in June, the European Union sent a formal request to Estonia to implement the EU Racial Equality Directive, which Estonia had still failed to do by the end of the year.

Paet stated that the situation in prisons is being constantly improved. Estonia has built two modern prisons and is reconstructing old ones.

"In what regards the directive, it is being handled by the Riigikogu," Paet said.

He said Estonia had explained all this also to Amnesty International.

Amnesty International is a nongovernmental organization which draws up annual reports on the observance of human rights on all countries.

Tallinn newsroom, +372 610 8862, sise@bns.ee

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