Court reviews complaint regarding motion seeking new Estonia sinking probe

The MS Estonia.
The MS Estonia. Source: Postimees Arhiiv/Scanpix

A Tallinn court which examined an action concerning a motion by relatives of the victims of the 1994 sinking of the MS Estonia focused on whether the motion constituted a request or a memorandum, who was supposed to resolve it — the government or the Ministry of Justice — and whether it was resolved.

The applicant and their attorney Piret Blankin found that the document was a request, not a memorandum, that the body competent to resolve it is the government, and that it has yet to be resolved by the government, and hence the court should oblige the government to resolve it.

Alar Must, representative for the Ministry of Justice and the government, found that obliging the government is not justified. Furthermore, Must observed that he had no powers of attorney from the government for the Tuesday court sitting to contest or accept the application, and requested to postpone the principal discussion of the matter.

Despite the wish of the representative of the respondents to adjourn the principal discussion, the court handled the matter to completion and scheduled the announcement of the decision for Oct. 24. The decision will be announced in writing and delivered electronically to the involved parties.

The possibility of a compromise was also discussed at Tuesday's meeting. Should a compromise be reached, the parties can notify the court of this.

On Dec. 19, 2018, Lennart Berglund and Lasse Johnsen filed an action with Tallinn Administrative Court for the ascertainment of the nullity, cancellation or ascertainment of the unlawfulness of a response made to them by the Ministry of Justice a month prior, on Nov. 19. They also sought for the court to oblige the government to resume the investigation of the sinking of the MS Estonia or, alternatively, to oblige the government to assess the necessity of the resumption of proceedings in the investigation of the sinking of the ferry.

Berglund, Johnsen and a number of other relatives of the victims as well as survivors of the disaster originally addressed a motion for the launching of a new investigation to determine the cause of the disaster to the Prime Minister of Estonia via the Estonian Embassy in Stockholm in 2016.

The Ministry of Justice responded on Nov. 19 last year that the letter in question was forwarded by the Government Office to the Ministry of Justice on Sept. 28, 2017 for response. The latter responded that while the resumption of an administrative proceeding is a competence of the government, not the Ministry of Justice, the ministry did not consider it justified to turn to the government for the resumption of the proceeding as the request did not contain new circumstances or claims that had not already been cited or analyzed in various prior investigations.

25 years since Estonia tragedy

On Sept. 28, 1994, the ferry Estonia sank while en route from Tallinn to Stockholm, claiming 852 lives. There were only 137 survivors.

The 1,116 survivors and relatives of the deceased had battled for two decades to have their case heard in court; the court finally moved forward with the trial in April.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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