United Nations


General Assembly

Distr. GENERAL  

20 March 1996



General Assembly
Fifty-first session
Item 113 of the preliminary list*

*    A/51/50.

                            HUMAN RIGHTS QUESTIONS

         Letter dated 19 March 1996 from the Permanent Representative
         of the Russian Federation to the United Nations addressed to
                             the Secretary-General

     I have the honour to transmit to you a document which was
circulated by the Russian Delegation in the Organization for Security
and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and is entitled "Violation of the
rights of non-citizens of Estonia" and which contains numerous facts
indicating discrimination against the Russian-speaking population in
Estonia (see annex).

     I should be most grateful if you would have the text of this
letter and its annex circulated as an official document under agenda
item 113 of the preliminary list.

                                                           (Signed)  S. LAVROV


              Violation of the rights of non-citizens of Estonia

            (A document circulated by the Russian delegation in the
             Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe)

     The Estonian authorities are still conducting a policy of
infringement of the rights of the Russian-speaking population of

1.   The lack of citizenship on the part of one third of the population
of Estonia remains the most acute problem in that country.  In
defining the legal status of non-citizens, Estonian legislators are
attempting to circumvent international norms by replacing, for
example, the term "person without citizenship" with the definition
"foreigner who is entitled to obtain Estonian citizenship".  The
extreme, in the view of independent experts, requirements with regard
to examinations in the Estonian language and knowledge of the
Constitution (as well as a number of other laws) are being maintained
for persons applying for Estonian citizenship and the term
"examination" is being replaced by the word "test", which has a
completely different meaning for Europeans.

2.   Under a discriminatory law on cultural autonomy, only citizens of
Estonia are recognized as representatives of national minorities,
which limits the possibility of tens of thousands of other permanent
residents to develop the use of their mother tongue, culture and
education and runs counter to article 27 of the International Covenant
on Civil and Political Rights.

3.   Estonian legislation is designed to restrict the political, social
and economic rights of non-citizens.  Restriction of the voting rights
of non-citizens is being provided for under amendments to the law on
elections to local self-government bodies (the Parliament has
completed the first reading of these amendments).  A policy is being
conducted with the aim of excluding the Russian-speaking population
from the property reform.  This was also seen during the recent
discussion by the Parliament of the Estonian Republic of amendments
and supplements to land legislation.  It appears that the
"non-indigenous residents" will be deprived even of the right to
purchase land under private houses.

4.   For the issuance of passports to foreigners, the Estonians will
increase the number of persons defined as "foreigners" at the expense
of non-citizens who have the right to permanent residence and
residence permits as well as children under the age of 15, neglecting
thereby to define their legal status and denying them protection by
Estonian diplomatic and consular missions.  On the basis of
humanitarian considerations, the Russian side agreed to include a
foreigner's passport in the list of documents for visa-free entry into
the Russian Federation.  This decision is of a temporary nature (until
the end of 1996).

5.   There is still evidence of the trend to curtail in Russian schools
the teaching of subjects necessary for the development of pupils'
national consciousness, particularly the Russian language and
literature as well as the history of Russia.  The threat still exists
that instruction in Russian in the higher grades in those schools will
be halted in the year 2000, which would lower the intellectual level
of Russian-speaking young people and make them uncompetitive in
various areas of mental work.

6.   The Estonian authorities have attempted to restrict the right of
"non-citizens" to freedom of religion.  Through the refusal by the
Department of Religious Affairs of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of
the Estonian Republic to register the Estonian Orthodox Church (EOC)
under its historic name, they are seeking to deprive it of its name,
then its property and consequently its freedom to conduct religious
activities (the Church's membership in Estonia numbers more than
100,000 persons).  The crisis in relations between the Moscow and
Constantinople Patriarchates was brought about also by blatant
interference on the part of the Estonian State authorities in an area
that is constitutionally separate from the State.

7.   The comments on Estonia by the Geneva-based United Nations Human
Rights Committee recommended reviewing domestic legislative provisions
that were discriminatory with respect to non-citizens and bringing
them into accordance with articles 2 and 26 of the Covenant.

8.   The recommendations of the Human Rights Committee point to a lack
of laws guaranteeing implementation of the provisions of articles 3
and 123 of the Constitution of the Estonian Republic, where reference
is made to the priority of international treaties over national
legislation, which is becoming increasingly relevant in connection
with the expected ratification by Estonia of the European Convention
on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.


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