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Human Rights

03.06.2016

All human beings are born free and equal in their dignity and rights—this was confirmed by nations in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights almost 70 years ago in 1948. That first step to create international human rights standards was followed by a number of human rights conventions that have defined the rights due to every individual—political and civil, economic, social and cultural rights. These rights are indivisible, inalienable and universal.

Estonia is a party to the United Nations (UN) conventions on human rights and is dedicated to protecting and promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms in Estonia and through international organizations. Expanding the observance of principles of human rights, democracy and rule of law, as well as the development of international law is one of Estonia’s five foreign policy priorities. Estonia’s particular focus is on supporting freedom of expression and media, and issues related to the rights of women, children and indigenous peoples.


Estonia’s activity in the Human Rights Council

On 12 November 2012 Estonia was elected to become a member of the Human Rights Council (HRC) for the term 2013-2015.

As a member of the HRC Estonia actively contributed to the protection and promotion of human rights and fundamental freedoms according to its foreign policy priorities in the field of human rights. More specifically, Estonia continues to concentrate on the protection of the rights of women, children and indigenous peoples, as well as supporting freedom of expression and media, including internet freedom, and fight against impunity.

Human Rights Council sessions

22nd session of the Human Rights Council - During the 22nd session of the HRC Estonia made 11 statements including the statement made by the Estonian Foreign Minister, Mr Urmas Paet on the high level segment and on a side-event devoted to women’s rights.

Estonia made two country-specific statements on the human rights situation in Syria and in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, three statements on children’s rights, and statements on negative impact of corruption on human rights, on rights of persons with disabilities, on torture and situation of human rights defenders and on human rights mainstreaming.

23rd session of the Human Rights Council - Estonia made thirteen statements during the session, including five country-specific statements on the following countries: Syria (two statements), Belarus, Eritrea and Montenegro (UPR).

Estonia took actively part in several panels and interactive dialogues and made statements on the following thematic issues: women’s rights (three statements) including internally displaced women, UPR procedural matters, extreme poverty, right to education, independence of lawyers and judges, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association.

During the 23rd session of the HRC, on 28 May 2013, Estonia organized together with Switzerland, Botswana, Costa Rica, International Commission of Jurists and TRIAL a side-event on „Strengthening accountability in the field of human rights“. One of the panelists of this side-event was Ms Tiina Intelmann, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the State Parties to the International Criminal Court. 

Estonian statements:

Eritrea statement

Syria statement

Urgent debate on Syria

Freedom of peaceful Assembly

Belarus

IDP

Independence of Lawyers and Judges

Trafficking and extreme poverty

Women's Rights

During the 23rd session Estonia was honored to contribute to the UN cultural events by exhibiting photographs of a global movement called “Let’s Do it!”.  With an aim to clean-up our country from trash this movement was started as civic initiative in Estonia but has grown into a worldwide campaign with more than 7 million volunteers and become a global network of people who love nature.  The photos were taken during the cleanup actions in many countries around the world.

24th session of the Human Rights Council - Estonia made altogether eight statements, including on the situation in Syria and two statements in the panel discussions on the integration of gender perspective and regarding the preparation for the World Congress on Indigenous Peoples. Additionally, Estonia delivered three statements under the UPR agenda item.

On 11 September Estonia, Switzerland and Costa Rica co-organised a side event on the issue of promotion of accountability through the human rights bodies in Geneva. Respective joint publication of the NGO TRIAL and International Commission of Jurists was also presented at the occasion.

25th session of the Human Rights Council – Estonia delivered altogether 13 statements, including the statement of the Minister for Foreign Affairs in the High-Level Panel, and at the side-event hosted by Estonia on freedom online. Estonia further delivered two country-specific statements on the situation of human rights in Syria and North-Korea. In addition, Estonia delivered statements in discussions on the following topics – children’s rights, including the annual debate on the rights of the child, focusing on the access to justice of children; violence against children, and children in conflict; cultural rights, protection of civil society, torture and human rights defenders, 65 anniversary of the UN Genocide convention, a statement on UPR.

Estonia organised jointly with the Permanent Missions of Mongolia, Tunisia and Mexico, and the NGO Internet Society a side-event promoting the annual conference of the Freedom Online Coalition, held in Tallinn. The Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Urmas Paet spoke at the event.

26th session of the Human Rights Council – Estonia delivered 12 statement, including 5 country-specific statements on Syria, Belarus, Central Africa Republic, Eritrea and Afganistan. In addition, Estonia delivered statements in thematic panels and interactive dialogues on the following topics – women’s rights – violence againt wolen, discrimination against women, annual debate on women’s rights with emphasis on gender stereotypes, child marriages; statements on the right to education, independence of judges and lawyers, safety of journalists, freedom of expression and peaceful assemblies.

Estonia organised together with the Permanent Missions of Botswana and Sweden a side-event on accountability entitled „National Accountability for Atrocity Crimes: a Human Rights Priority“. Panelists included the High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms Navi Pillay, the President of the Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute Ms Tiina Intelmann, and the former Chief Prosecutor of Guatemala Ms Claudia Paz y Paz.

Estonia supported the side-event by United States together with United Kingdom, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden and Canada on the rights of women and sexual violence entitled „Girl Be Heard Across Borders“.

27th session of the Human Rights Council – Estonia delivered 16 statements, including on country-specific issues on Ukraine, Syria, Central African Republic, South Sudan and Equatorial Guinea and DPRK. Estonia also delivered statements on thematic issues – role of prevention in protection of human rights, rights of detainees, protection of family, two statements on rights of indigenous peoples, teaching of history, privacy in the digital age, violence against children, gender mainstreaming. Estonia made a statement on the abduction of Mr Eston Kohver, and handed over a letter on the same subject to the President of the HRC.

In the beginning of the 27th session Estonia opened an exhibition of photographs “The Waterfowl People: Lennart Meri’s Finno-Ugric Film Expeditions 1969-1988” which remained open during the whole session.  The aim of the exhibition was to raise public awareness about the Finno-Ugric peoples. The exhibition was also a tribute to Mr Lennart Meri, an Estonian filmmaker and later President of the Republic of Estonia who, despite difficult circumstances, documented and recorded Finno-Ugric peoples living under the Soviet Union occupation.


In 2014 Estonia was the coordinator of the Geneva Group of Friends of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Estonia organised regular events, which included speakers such as the President of the Assembly of the States Parties to the Rome Statute Ms Tiina Intelmann, and representatives from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Committee of the Red Cross.


28th session of the Human Rights Council - Estonia made 13 statements during the session, including 4 country-specific statements, namely on Syria, DPRK, Myanmar and Ukraine and 9 thematic statements on the following issues: climate change and human rights, 3 statements on child rights, torture and human rights defenders, the rights of persons with disabilities, minority rights, human rights policies and racism.  

29th session of the Human Rights Council - Estonia made statements on the human rights situation in Syria, Belarus, Eritrea, Central African Republic and Ukraine. Thematic statements were made on the issues of human trafficking, violence against women and discrimination against women, on education and girls’ education, freedom of expression and assembly, racism and terrorism.  In all Estonia made 14 statements during the session.

Additionally, at the initiative of Estonia was prepared the Freedom Online Coalition statement that was delivered by Mongolia, the chair of the Coalition at the time.

The Permanent Mission of Estonia along with Council of Europe, Organization of News Ombudsmen, Forum Asia/Bytes for All and the Permanent Mission of Austria organized a side event devoted to the freedom of expression with particular emphasis to online freedom: “Finding synergies in protecting freedom of expression online: Freedom of expression; handling the challenges of the online era”. The representative of Council of Europe introduced the exiting instruments and organization’s work in the field, the Forum Asia representative gave an overview of freedom online situation in Pakistan and larger Asia region and the president of the Organization of News Ombudsmen, Mr Tarmu Tammerk gave practitioners’ view on the situation and problems. The underlying conclusion drawn from the event was that different regions in the connected world have similar issues yet different magnitudes attached to these issues. The national security question remains valid as does the interpretation of Article 19 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 10 in the European Convention of Human Rights. Thus it was constantly noted that not only international level solutions are important in protecting the freedom of expression online, but regional, state level and individual levels are of upmost of importance as well.


30th session of the Human Rights Council was the last one for Estonia as a member of the Council during which Estonia made 18 statements – 7 thematic and 11 country specific statements. Estonia made statements on the human rights situation in Syria, DPRK, Ukraine, Central African Republic and Sri Lanka and 5 statements to the countries on the adoption of their UPR working group reports: Mongolia, Libya, Croatia, Belarus and the US, the last two were included to the minutes of the meeting due to the lack of time for their delivery.  Thematic statements were devoted to gender equality, older peoples’ rights, on truth and justice, good governance and 2 statements on indigenous peoples’ rights.  

During the 30th HRC session Estonia organized a side event “Promoting Indigenous Peoples’ cultural rights: Finno-Ugric Capitals of Culture as an example”. The objective of this event was to highlight the importance of cultural rights and to share good practices on how to better promote indigenous peoples’ cultural rights throughout the world. In particular, the side event introduced the Programme of Finno-Ugric Capitals of Culture as an example of international civic initiative that promotes cultural rights of Finno-Ugric indigenous peoples.  In the panel discussion the UN Special Rapporteur Ms Victoria Tauli Corpuz emphasized the importance of introducing good practices in the UN, including different type of civic initiatives and highlighted the example of Finno-Ugric initiative as an example that deserves to be followed.  EMRIP (Expert Mechanism of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples) chair, Mr Alexey Tsykarev introduced the latest EMRIP report devoted to promotion and protection of the rights of indigenous peoples with respect to their cultural heritage, including through their participation in political and public life.  Subsequently the two representatives of the Finno-Ugric capitals of culture Ms Julia Shakhtina, representative of Bygy village (Republic of Udmurtia, RUS), the capital of culture of 2014 and Ms Annela Laaneots, representative of Obinitsa village (EST), the capital of culture of 2015, presented their villages and their activities as Finno-Ugric capitals of culture. The event was moderated by Mr.Oliver Loode, member and vice chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

31st session of the Human Rights Council – Estonia delivered altogether fourteen statements: one statement during the General Segment on important human rights situations, five country-specific statements - on the situation of human rights in Mali, Syria, Ukraine, DPRK and Myanmar. Estonia further delivered two statements on the fight against sexual exploitation of children, including in the ICT context, additionally two statements on online violence against children and children in armed conflict, two statements on the rights of persons with disabilities, statements on cultural rights, terrorism, HIV/AIDS, and a statement upon the adoption of the UPR report of the Federated States of Micronesia.


UPR sessions

UPR 15th session - Estonia made statements on the following states under review: France, Romania, Montenegro, Luxembourg, Tonga, Botswana, Barbados, Bahamas, Serbia and United Arab Emirates.

UPR 16th session - Estonia made statements on the following states under review: Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tuvalu, Germany, Djibouti, Canada, Russian Federation, Cameroon and Cuba.

UPR 17th session - Estonia made statements on the following states under review: China, Nigeria, Mexico, Mauritius, Jordan, Central African Republic, Monaco, Israel and the Congo.

UPR 18th session - Estonia made statements on the following states under review: Afghanistan, Chile, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Macedonia, Slovakia, Eritrea, Dominican Republic, Vietnam.

UPR 19th session - Estonia made statements on the following states under review: Norway, Albania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Portugal, North Korea, Costa Rica, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Nicaragua.

UPR 20th session - Estonia made statements on the following states under review: Italy, San Marino, El Salvador, Fidzi, Kazakhstan, Angola, Iran, Iraq, Slovenia, Egypt, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

UPR 21st session – Estonia made statements on the following states under review: Kyrgyzstan, Kiribati, Lao DR, Spain, Kenya, Armenia, Guinea-Bissau, Sweden, Turkey, Guyana, Kuwait. 

UPR 22nd session – Estonia made statements on the following states under review: Belarus, Bulgaria, USA, Andorra, Jamaica, Marshall Islands, Croatia, Mongolia, Liberia, Libya, Honduras.

UPR 23rd session – Estonia made statements on the following states under review: Micronesia, Lebanon, Rwanda, Nepal, Oman, Myanmar, Austria, Australia, Georgia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Sao Tome and Principe.

UPR 24th session – Estonia made statements on the following states under review: Namibia, Belgium, Denmark, Somalia, Palau, Solomon Islands, Latvia.


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