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The ECtHR on the complaints related to the “Bronze Night” in Tallinn in 2007

I was offered editing of the partial decision of the European Court of Human Rights as to the admissibility of Application no. 10195/08 by Aleksandr Korobov and Others vs. Estonia, decision of 14 September 2010, concerning alleged violations of Article 3 and 13; Article 5 (1), (2) and (5); Article 6; Article 6 (1); Article 14 in conjunction with Articles 3 and 5 of the ECHR – so I happily agreed, because now I could thoroughly read and analyse the case.

The facts of the case concern the Bronze Night, more exactly the Bronze Soldier, originally named “Monument to the Liberators of Tallinn” that was unveiled on 22 September 1947, on the 3rd anniversary of the entry of the Soviet Red Army into Tallinn, that was placed to Tõnismägi, central Tallinn, above a small burial site of Soviet soldiers, and consisted of a statue of a soldier in a Second World War-era Red Army military uniform set against a stone background. According to the facts of the case, for years, the removal or relocation of the Bronze Soldier was demanded, because on certain days (22 September – the anniversary of the entry of the Red Army into Tallinn in 1944, and 9 May – Soviet Victory Day in the II World War) a crowd of “mainly Russian speakers, including veterans and younger people, gathered at the monument”, sometimes smaller instances of confrontation had occurred. As the monument laid above a burial site and under the Protection of War Graves Act from 2007 the State had to rebury the remains of the soldiers, on the eve of 26 April 2007, a large tent structure was laid over the Bronze Soldier, the square was cordoned off by police forces, and the works with the monument and the graves began. But a large group of mainly Russian-speaking people gathered at Tõnismägi, expressing their discontent with the works around the monument, refusing to comply with the police orders, some of them trying to break through the police gordon, turning more violent, and starting to throw rocks and empty bottles at the police. When the police had forced the crowd out of Tõnismägi, the crowd started “looting shops and buildings in streets near by, to which actions the police answered with thruncheons, rubber bullets and plastic handcuffs, arresting many people. Both, the protests, as well as police actions continued during the next day, 27 April 2007. According to the official data, in total more than 1160 people were arrested (500 of them the Estonian nationals, nearly 100 the Russian nationals, and more than 300 stateless persons), one person was stabbed to death and 156 were injured (29 policemen included). By 18 May 2007, 65 criminal cases involving 300 suspects had been opened by the authorities, with accusations of serious breach of public order, and disregard of lawful orders given by representatives of the state authority. A few days later, the Bronze Soldier was put up in a military cemetery in Tallinn.

Now follows that may also be placed under what has been named as “aftermath of the Bronze Night” – Seven applicants brought their complaints before the ECtHR, the first applicant complained about having been kicked to the ground by the police officers on 27 April, handcuffed, and taken to a storage facility at the port (D-terminal), without having been informed about the reasons of his arrest, about as he was told to squat against the wall, where he was refused to stand up, and was repeatedly beaten with trunceons and kicked in the stomach, but was released on the next day without any charges. The second applicant, a minor at that time, was also arrested on 27 April, but was released after some hours. The third applicant was also arrested on 27 April, he was ordered to lie on the ground, pushed, handcuffed, kicked, degraded, and beaten, but also he was released on the same day. The fourth applicant was first shot with a rubber bullet, hit with truncheons, thereafter his arms were bound, he was thrown into a car, and taken to the D-terminal, from where he was taken to the hospital on the same day. The fifth applicant was also arrested on 27 April, having first been attacked, kicked, hitted, and taken to the D-terminal to squat, thereafter taken to the hospital on the same day. The sixth applicant was arrested on 27 April, made to stand against the wall of a house with other people, hit on the legs, pushed, tied with plastic bands, handcuffed, and taken to the Rahumäe Detention Centre, where he was searched, and placed in a cell designed for four people together with 17 people, but also he was released on 28 April. The seventh applicant was arrested on 28 April, his hands were tied together with tape, and he was brought to a court building, made to stand against a wall, pushed, kicked, shouted at, and taken to a cell, but released on 29 April.

Each of the applicants made an individual criminal complaint after having been released, alleging unlawful deprivation of liberty, and complaining the use of violence against them. The applicants exhausted domestic remedies.

The ECtHR:

– Concerning the first complaint – the alleged violations of Articles 3 and 13 of the ECHR (ill-treatment of the applicants during their arrest and detention; no effective investigation had been carried out in respect of their complaints), the ECtHR explained that though an absolute right, guaranteeing of Article 3 depends on the circumstances of the case, and the evidence, and established towards the second and the third applicant that it does not appear that the force applied in respect of them during their arrest, and the threshold of the treatment fall under Article 3, and reminded that the applicants did not provide medical reports neither to the domestic authorities, nor to the Court. The ECtHR did not find violation of Article 3 also towards the third applicant. In respect of the first, fourth, fifth, and seventh applicants, the ECtHR considered that it was not able to determine the admissibility of the complaint.

– Concerning the second complaint – the alleged violations of Article 5 (1) (unlawful and arbitrary deprivation of liberty) and Article 5 (2) (the applicants were not promptly informed about the reasons for their arrest and of any charge against them), and the claim for the right to compensation under Article 5 (5), the ECtHR explained that on the basis of the case file, it could not determine the admissibility of the complaints (Article 5 (1)), that the right to information about the reasons for one’s arrest and charges also depends on the circumstances, on the notion of promptness, and that in the present case the applicants must have understood, “at least in broad terms”, why they had been arrested, consequently the ECtHR rejected that complaint as manifestly ill-founded under Article 35 (3) and (4) (Article 5 (2)).

– Concerning the third complaint – the alleged violations of Article 6 (2) (presumption of innocence violated because of the language used during the proceedings), specifically also Article 6 (3) (promptness), the ECtHR explained that the claim had not been raised before the domestic authorities, and that the wording of the officials’ documents had not revealed that the applicants had been found guilty prior to the judgment convicting them was delivered (Article 6 (2)), and with regard to the third and sixth applicant that a person may not claim to be a victim of a violation of his / her right to a fair trial under Article 6 under the course of proceedings, under which s/he was acquitted or which were discontinued (Article 6 (3)), consequently, the complaint was considered manifestly ill-founded and rejected by the ECtHR.

– Concerning the fourth complaint – the alleged violation of Article 14 taken in conjunction with Articles 3 and 5 (discrimination on the ground of the applicants’ ethnic origin), the ECtHR was of opinion that the applicants failed to substantiate their relevant allegations, and consequently, also this complaint was considered manifestly ill-founded by the ECtHR and rejected.

Finally, the ECtHR unanimously decided to adjourn the examination of the first, fourth, fifth, and seventh applicants’ complaint concerning their ill-treatment, and the applicants’ complaint concerning their deprivation of liberty, as well as the related complaint concerning their right to compensation for the allegedly unlawful detention; and declared the remainder of the application inadmissible.

If I had to represent the applicants – I would argue from the psychological viewpoint that people are manipulative, and probably were manipulated also at the eve of the 26th of April, and that in a group, people loose their identity to the group (psychologist and pedagogue Toivo Niilberg in “Postimees” of 5.10.2010).

If I had to represent my state – I would argue that a precondition of Statehood is that a state must guarantee order on its territory. If the state fails in it, the state  ceases to exist.

BUT: See also: The case of Raninen vs. Finland, Application No. 20972/92, judgment of the ECtHR of 16 December 1997. Still Finland is bigger and far more established and powerful state than Estonia to allow itself the freedom of acknowledging its mistakes.

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