Court orders government to respond on MS Estonia investigation application

Tallinn Administrative Court hearing into government delays in responding to MS Estonia victims' representatives request for a fresh inquiry into the sinking. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The Tallinn Administrative Court has found that the government has not properly responded to a request for a new investigation filed by relatives of the victims of the MS Estonia Ferry, and has ordered the Government to respond within 60 days.

The victims' families and their representatives asked the Estonian state to open a fresh investigation into the sinking of the ferry, which happened on Sept. 28 1994 costing 852 lives, in October 2016.

However the court found the request had not been properly answered to and has given the government 60 days to consider it and to comment on the initiation of a new investigation. 

According to ERR's online news in Estonian, the only feedback received by the applicants to this appeal was a letter from the Ministry of Justice two years after the request was filed, in November 2018, the court found. 

This letter simply said opening a new investigation was a matter for the government, adding that the ministry did not consider it justified to apply to the government to reopen the procedure.

It was also not within the ministry's competence to respond to the request, the courts found.

As the reasonable time for solving the application has now apparently passed, the date of settlement of the application has been unlawfully delayed, the court found.

The court also explained that it could not resolve the request made to the government on the behalf of the latter, nor could it instruct the government how to deal with the application. 

Nonetheless the government must respond within "reasonable time" - 60 days in this case, the court says, and must adhere to the principle of good administration in dealing with the application and not abuse its procedural rights or delay unduly the case, as well as being ordered to pay costs of €2,580.

The decision can be appealed, no later than 25 November 2019.

The parties were heard in the Tallinn Administrative Court on 24 September. 

The applicants were represented by Piret Blankin, the Ministry of Justice and, representing the government, Alar Must. The judge was Kaupo Kruusvee.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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