Around 130,000 people living in Estonia remained without citizenship and as a result faced discriminatory practices, particularly in the fields of educational, labour and cultural rights. For example, stateless residents were not allowed to work in certain parts of the public sector, and had only limited rights in terms of movement outside the country.
Stateless residents generally held either temporary or permanent residence permits. In April, Estonia introduced the category of long-term resident which, among other things, reduced restrictions on the right to live and work in other European Union member states. All permanent residents automatically qualify as long-term residents. However, in June 2007 a new language requirement was set to be introduced whereby long-term residency would only be granted to those who had achieved the required level in Estonian.
Discriminatory practices, including barriers to employment, continued towards the country's linguistic minority, affecting some 430,000 people, approximately 30 per cent of the population.
In August, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination adopted its Concluding Observations on Estonia. The Committee recommended that the definition of what constitutes a minority set out in the Law on Cultural Autonomy of National Minorities should be amended to include non-citizens, including stateless people with long-term residence. The Committee further recommended that Estonia enact anti-discrimination legislation in accordance with the UN Convention against Racism. The Committee also suggested that Estonia consider providing free Estonian language courses to all those applying for citizenship.
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights
In August, participants in a Gay Pride march in Tallinn were attacked by more than a dozen counter-demonstrators. More than 10 participants in the march were injured and one person was hospitalized with head injuries. The counter-demonstrators, who reportedly defined themselves as Estonian nationalists, physically and verbally attacked marchers, spat on them and threw stones and eggs. Law enforcement officials failed to intervene to prevent the attacks by the counter-demonstrators; the authorities had not provided sufficient resources to police the march adequately.
Estonia ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture.
AI country reports/visits
Estonia: The right to freedom of peaceful assembly must be protected (AI Index: EUR 51/001/2006)
Linguistic minorities in Estonia: Discrimination must end (AI Index: EUR 51/002/2006)
AI delegates visited Estonia in March and August.