TALLINN - Ruling parties in Parliament have scrapped an bill sponsored by the opposition that would have awarded the status of freedom fighter to Estonian citizens who fought against Soviet aggression and occupation during World War II and in the years after it. Coalition parties said they were drafting a similar bill of their own.
A proposal from the constitutional committee to bar the Pro Patria Union and Reform Party bill from the agenda was approved in the 101-seat chamber with 44 votes from Reform, Center Party and People's Union deputies. Voting against were 30 MPs from the opposition.
A member of the constitutional committee, Res Publica deputy Avo Uprus, said that in the course of debates in the standing committee the very idea of the bill, or expressing respect for the people who took part in military struggle against the Soviet regime, was never directly questioned. Other issues, however, were raised, he said.
Uprus referred to the opinion of the government, which didn't back the bill in the presented form but admitted it was necessary to pay tribute to the fighters and continue work to solve the problems that had been raised.
The government's position is that every kind of justified activity in the name of the restoration of Estonia's independence, including resistance at the time when Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union or Germany, must be treated as fighting for freedom.
At the same time, one cannot deem freedom fighters those Estonian citizens who have committed crimes against humanity or war crimes, or other crimes punishable under Estonian law, the government said.
Speaking on behalf of the Reform Party, MP Raivo Jarvi said the coalition is planning to set out timelines and principles on the basis of which freedom fighters would be acknowledged. He said the ruling trio was planning to bring a corresponding bill before the parliament in the near future.
According to the bill filed by the right-wing opposition, justified armed resistance to Soviet military aggression in World War II and to the subsequent unlawful occupation of Estonia must be regarded as fight for freedom and the Estonian citizens who participated in it, as fighters for Estonia's freedom.
The explanatory letter to the bill submitted in June 2005 said that several organizations of freedom fighters have called for the parliament's stance on the service by Estonians in the armies that fought World War II, especially the German army. They pointed out that neither has the so-called Forest Brothers' struggle against the Soviet occupation after World War II been properly recognized.