Justice minister on classified documents: Unfinished work must be done

Minister  of Justice Maris Lauri (Reform).
Minister of Justice Maris Lauri (Reform). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Minister of Justice Maris Lauri (Reform) said documents marked as AK ("intended for internal use") incorrectly must be made public as soon as possible, because it says so in the law.

ERR's Estonian portal unveiled on Tuesday that there could be millions of documents incorrectly classified in state institution registries. Lauri told Vikerraadio's news show "Uudis+" on Wednesday that the problem exists and admitted that the drive to mark documents as classified is especially high on the local municipality level.

Lauri said institutions must find a way to finance and organize their work in a more effective manner. "I spoke about the topic in government some months ago," the minister said. "I called on ministers to not have these AK-markings put on documents too lightly. I hope pointing this out was effective, but people will certainly still do it and it needs reminding."

The justice minister noted that the reason for classifying documents is likely that people are not entirely sure what should be concealed, which is why they make documents inaccessible.

A person's name is not a sensitive piece of information, which needs to be hidden and classified, Lauri said. "There needs to be a concrete reason for why an AK-marking is put on a document," the minister said.

She admitted that solving the issue will take up quite a bit of time, but an effort needs to be made to clear things up as soon as possible. "We have to follow the law and this kind of secrecy, even if it has taken place unintentionally, should be ended," Lauri said.

Regardless of the reason, a document can be hidden from the public for 5-70 years. If the due date passes, the document should become available in the public document registry. In actuality, the documents are only made available to people who request it. This, in turn, presumes that the person knows how to make a request without knowing what is written in the document. 

Lauri admitted that she considers it surprising and worrying that there has not been a system developed over the years, which would make it possible to remove the classification markings. "I can only assume why this has not happened - whether it be comfort or hope that some things will not be looked for," Lauri said, adding that she cannot think of a reasonable explanation.

The justice minister noted that if documents have been classified for internal use only, the future of these documents should also be thought of. "So it would not be possible to read from the title that it has to do with a person," Lauri said.

"These processes are likely not thought through, the specific moment has only been considered and the future was not thought of - it is certainly a problem," the minister concluded.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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