Russia's war against Ukraine recapitulates a tragic experience seen before in history, where wars and armed conflicts, international humanitarian law and human rights and fundamental freedoms alike get violated, leading to incalculable civilian suffering, President Alar Karis said Friday.
Addressing the opening of the annual Estonian Institute of Human Rights (Eesti Inimõiguste Instituut) Friday, the head of state said: "It saddens me deeply that we have to talk about suffering, but having said that it is inevitable that today – almost a year after the start of Russia's aggression in Ukraine – we are talking about these issues."
"We require a basis to act in a way that will help prevent a repeat pattern of such tragic scenarios in the future. One thing must be clear to everyone – human rights also still apply during wartime," Karis went on, according to a press release.
"It must be clarified to all human rights violators worldwide – be they in Russia, Belarus, Afghanistan or elsewhere –that no crime will go unpunished."
The president also noticed the disparity from history where, while war criminals from Nazi Germany were subsequently tried in Nuremberg, crimes against humanity committed by the Soviet Union's communist regime, an ally of the western powers, were not punished or even addressed.
The victors did not stand trial, so the inevitable nature of impunity for the most serious international crimes was not satisfied at that time, the president added.
This has led to consequences even today, not only with the invasion of Ukraine, but the continual glorifying of Russia's imperialist heritage, both Tsarist and Soviet, and attempts to recreate that past both by the regime and its propaganda organs, and the ordinary people.
This means that whole generations in Russia have grown up fed on mythology, meaning they do not feel any responsibility for the atrocities committed in their name or by their leaders, nor do they condemn the current, similar atrocities committed by Russian forces in Ukraine.
The situation leads to an "endless resentment" and "impotent sadness", the head of state added.
The widespread administration of justice on all those culpable and international support for this is thus vital, Karis added.
The fact that Estonian prosecutors and experts are already working with their counterparts at the International Criminal Court The Hague, in helping to collect evidence of committed war crimes is one step in the right direction, he went on.
Entitled "War, Dictatorship and Human Rights", day one of the Estonian Institute of Human Rights' 2023 conference took place Friday, at the Swissôtel in Tallinn.
Ahead of the conference, the Estonian president also met with Nobel Peace Prize laureate and Russian journalist Dmitri Muratov, and Nina Khrushcheva, a political scientist of Russian origin (and great-granddaughter of Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev-ed.), now working in the U.S.
Editor: Andrew Whyte