National frameworks to address hate crime in Estonia

This page provides information on the national frameworks to address hate crime in Estonia. The information provided here should be viewed alongside data presented on Estonia's hate crime report page.


Hate crime recording and data collection

Police officers use a generic form to record hate crimes. The Ministry of Justice has issued a guiding instruction, with the following criteria necessary to meet the definition of a hate crime: (i) the offence must correspond to a criminal offence or misdemeanour covered by the Penal Code; and (ii) the perpetrator chose a specific attribute of the victim or target, such as "race", religion, ethnic origin, nationality, sexual orientation, or a similar characteristic shared by a group of people. The police registration system enables police officers to mark a case as a hate crime by ticking a box. This "hate crime flag" is not used exclusively for hate crime cases, but also for other cases, such as hate speech incidents. The flagging of hate crimes is not mandatory. Police offices can tick boxes corresponding to the following three hate crime types:

  1. Bias against "race", religion origin;
  2. Bias against sexual orientation and identity; and
  3. Bias against other groups (disability and other social groups).

Methods for identifying hate crimes are described in an instruction prepared by the Ministry of Justice. Law enforcement agents can also mark the motive of a criminal case when the suspect has been identified. A potential bias motivation can therefore be marked both using the hate crime flags and the motive box.  However, the law does not require police to flag the motive of a crime. From the list of motives available in the electronic database (the Police Information System), law enforcement agents can select a "hate motive".

All reported crimes are recorded in an electronic system called E-File, which is used by several client-systems including the Police Information System and the Criminal Case Management Register used by prosecutors and investigative bodies. The E-File is an integrated central information system that provides all criminal justice bodies with access to criminal files and enables simultaneous exchange of information. Data entered in the MIS is simultaneously accessible by a prosecutor in the Criminal Case Management Register. The entered information can be further used and changed by the prosecutor in the prosecutors' register and sent if necessary to the courts information system (KIS). Later, the procedural information and the court decision can be delivered to the Information System of Prisons (VangIS). The E-File is also used to generate crime statistics, including on hate crimes.

Victimization surveys are conducted annually in Estonia.


Hate crime victim support

Estonia has a country-wide, state-financed general victim support service – the Estonian National Social Insurance Board. The service covers all crime victims, including those targeted in hate crimes. Hate crime victims are listed as a special category of victim on the website of the National Social Insurance Board; however, the service's hate crime specialization is quite limited.

A standard set of support services are offered to all victims, and include counselling, assistance in communicating with other criminal justice system actors, safe accommodation, catering, access to health services, material and psychological assistance, translation and interpretation, and other services needed for victims' rehabilitation. Information about these services is distributed among local government, police, rescue, health care, social welfare and other relevant authorities. Persons dealing with victims receive adequate training.

The Estonian National Social Insurance Board is entitled to transfer the provision of victim support services to a legal person or local government in part or in whole by signing a relevant agreement. There are, however, no civil society organizations providing specialist support to hate crime victims, so such referrals do not take place.

The police have some tools at their disposal to record hate crimes. Hate crime recording happens sporadically and, as a result, very few individuals have been identified as victims of hate crime.

The Ministry of Justice is currently working to reform the hate crime recording system. The Ministry is also conducting project work to improve the assessment of all victims' needs, including hate crime victims. At present, police only conduct individual needs assessments for victims of domestic violence, for which there are specific forms and procedures in place.