Nation accused of human right violations

  • 2008-11-12
  • By Jana Belugina

EUROJUSTICE: War pensioners who fought for both Estonia and Russia have taken their claim to the ECHR.

TALLINN - A total of 47 war pensioners have turned to the European Court of Human Rights with a lawsuit claiming that Estonia violated their human rights by refusing to pay their pensions.
The Estonian Human Rights Information Center has drawn up the complaints, which highlight the Estonian government refusing to pay civilian pensions to the people already receiving Russian military pensions.
According to the European Convention on Human Rights Article 1, Protocol 1, "Every natural or legal person is entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of his possessions."

However, the lawsuit claims that the Estonian government has forced war pensioners to give up their possessions 's or in other words, pensions.
In 1994, Russia and Estonia came to an agreement on social guarantees for pensioners of the Russian armed forces on the territory of Estonia. According to the agreement, pensioners receiving pay from the Russian Federation are not able to simultaneously receive pensions from the Estonian government. It should be noted that, at the time, pensions paid by the Estonian government would include both military and civil ones.
In 2000, the Estonian government made changes to the pension legislation, resulting in a dilemma the pensioners who had to choose whether to receive pension only for the years spent in military or only for civil cervices. Neither amount is considered enough to survive on its own.

Since 2001, the Russian government has been asking Estonia to change the legislation and allow those pensioners to receive both pensions 's as is the case in Latvia and Lithuania. The Estonian government has refused.
The Russian government has continued to pay military pensions to its pensioners, regardless of whether they were receiving Estonian civil pensions. However, the Estonian government has stopped pension payment to those people.
Some of them, like Georgij Dzevulskij, have even received a letter from the Pension Department demanding the return of pensions received from the Estonian government.

Article 14 of the Convention states that "the enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, color, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status."
It one more time underlines that the human rights stated in the Convention must be provided to anyone with no discrimination. However the Russian military pensioners living in Estonia are clearly discriminated.
The European Convention on Human Rights came in force in Estonia after its ratification in 1996. 
However, there was no clause referring to the justified deprivation of pensions.

There are about 2,000 pensioners in Estonia that hold the right to receive both military and civilian pensions. A total of 63 of them have gone to the Estonian courts. Forty-seven cases were lost in all instances. This questions the correct applicability of the European Convention on Human Rights, which is directly applicable in the Estonian courts.

Now the European Court of Human Rights will decide upon three collective complains by the Estonian-Russian pensioners and may solve the multi-year suit.