Government to make decision on Estonia ferry disaster investigation soon

The Estonia ferry. Source: ERR

Prime Minister Juri Ratas said at the government's press conference on Thursday that the government will take a stance regarding a complaint submitted by next-of-kin of victims of the 1994 Estonia ferry disaster within a couple of months.

The Tallinn Administrative Court delivered a ruling in mid-October which obligated the government to make known its views regarding the complaint in which the relatives of the people who died in the disaster asked the state of Estonia to launch a new investigation into ferry's sinking.

"The government has discussed the application by next-of-kin of the victims of the Estonia ferry to launch a new investigation to determine the reasons of the ferry's sinking. The government has also decided at the proposal of the minister of justice not to challenge the court's decision," Ratas said, adding that the next steps will need to be discussed within the next couple of months.

In October 2016, survivors and relatives of the victims of the Estonia ferry disaster submitted a request to the prime minister to initiate a new probe to determine the reasons behind the ferry's sinking.

During court proceedings, it was determined that the only feedback that the appellants received to the inquiry was a letter from the Ministry of Justice sent two years later in November 2018. 

The reply said the decision to reopen the administrative procedure is within the competence of the government, not the ministry, and the ministry does not consider it justified to turn to the government to reopen the procedure. That is, the government, whom the request was submitted to, has not responded to the request and the request was responded to by the Ministry of Justice, whom it had not been submitted to and who also was not competent to deal with it.

The legal proceedings also did not clarify on what legal basis the prime minister, whom the request was submitted to, was not required to respond and under what circumstances the Ministry of Justice, instead of the prime minister and the government, replied to the appellants.

By now, the reasonable time for resolving the application has clearly passed, so according to the court, the Estonian government is unlawfully delaying resolving the appellants' request.

The court explained that it could not resolve the request made to the government on its behalf. Nor does the court tell the government how to deal with the request. However, the government must do so within a reasonable period of time, which in this case is 60 days. In doing so, the government must adhere to the principle of good administration in dealing with the request and must not abuse its procedural rights or delay the case unduly again.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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