In Estonia, the freedom of assembly is regulated by the “Law Enforcement Act” as of February 23, 2011. Prior notification regarding the holding of peaceful assemblies is required. The № RT I 1997, 30, 472 «Public Meeting Act» of 26 March 1997 remained in force until 2014 and was repealed afterward.
Procedure for organizing meetings
- organizers of meetings must be citizens of Estonia or any other state of the EU who have reached the legal age, as well as foreign citizens granted permanent residence in Estonia;
- notice of holding a meeting must be submitted at least 4 working days in advance, or it shall be submitted earlier in case any special conditions are required (such as reorganization of traffic, installation of tents or stages);
- organizers shall ensure the removal of any waste produced as a result of the meeting.
Organizers and participants have the right
- to hold spontaneous meetings;
- to hold meetings in front of buildings of public authorities;
- to hold meetings in the night-time;
- to cover their faces.
Restrictions on the right to freedom of assembly
It is prohibited:
- to hold more than one meeting at the same place and time;
- to hold meetings in the zone of epidemic spread, as well as at the EU borders and near high-voltage power lines;
- to call for the overthrow of the constitutional order of Estonia or to instigate violation of its territorial integrity;
- to incite hatred towards any social group.
- Non-compliance with the requirements for public assemblies shall entail a fine in the amount of up to $881 for individuals and $3526 for legal entities.
- Holding an unauthorized meeting shall entail a fine or imprisonment for a period of up to 1 year.
- Public officials can be fined or sentenced to up to 1-year imprisonment for obstructing an authorized meeting or its dispersion by force.
Commentaries of experts and participants of public events
Participants of public assemblies, human rights advocates, and journalists from Estonia see the overall environment for public assemblies as favourable. However, the government tends to restrict certain groups in their right to public assembly. Particularly, holding anti-fascist demonstrations may be problematic. Respondents mention that generally the government and the public authorities do not attempt to disrupt meetings. Although, some stress that the situation has become worse with the recent legislative amendments. Before 2014 there was a separate act regulating freedom of peaceful assembly in Estonia. But later it was repealed and the amended regulations were transferred into the «Law Enforcement Act». Interviewed experts do not mention the government non-complying with regulations enacted by the ECHR or other international human rights organizations.