Human rights body: Growing intolerance threatens gains already made

Head of the Human Rights Center Kari Käsper.
Head of the Human Rights Center Kari Käsper. Source: Eesti Inimõiguste Keskus

The human rights situation has improved in recent years, though aggressive political rhetoric and attacks on the rule of law, the media and other organizations such as NGOs are a cause for concern, according to a report due to be published by the Human Rights Center (Inimõiguste Keskus).

Inimõiguste Keskus head Käri Kasper, who authored the report, said while the human rights situation in Estonia may have improved on paper, substantial improvements are needed, as well as preserving past advances, to ensure everyone feels valued in Estonia.

"We have made remarkable progress since the restoration of independence, but the spread of intolerant rhetoric and the increasingly dominating belief that human rights are only the rights of the majority are causing concern for the future," Käsper said, according to BNS.

Käsper added that in his view, for the first time in the history of the Human Rights Center report, worries over freedom of speech and expression have emerged, after political pressure on journalists critical of the government, inadequate anti-hate speech legislation, and attacks on institutions and civil society.

Katrin Nyman-Metcalf, author of the report's chapter on freedom of speech, said pressure on the media is worrying since atmosphere in which journalists feel they have to self-censor could endanger freedom of expression.

While many earlier recommendations from previous years, including plans to lift the ban on outdoor electoral advertising in the weeks before local, general and EU elections, and the emergence of the Chancellor of Justice as a human rights legal guardian, there are several fields in which this has not happened, the report says.

One example is continued long-term retention of personal data, with the right to vote for those imprisoned being another.

Anti-hate legislation must be reviewed, the report adds, and national minorities should be involved more in political life.

Patients in psychiatric hospitals are also seeing their freedoms unduly restricted, the report adds.

The report, "Human Rights in Estonia 2020", has been published since 2007 and this year contains 12 chapters written by non-governmental experts from various organizations. The report looks at national minorities, refugees, asylum seekers and people with disabilities, as well as the general topics of freedom of assembly, administration of justice and freedom of speech, according to BNS.

The report is due to be published on Dec. 10 and is made possible via the support of donations, BNS reports.

The Estonian Human Rights Center is an independent non-governmental human rights advocacy organization, with the mission of mission of working together for an Estonia that respects the human rights of each person.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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