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 a definition of a hate crime: (i) the offense must correspond to a criminal offences or misdemeanour provided for by the Penal Code; and (ii) the perpetrator has chosen a specific attribute of the victim or target, such as race, religion, ethnic origin, nationality, or sexual orientation shared by a group of people, or similar common denominator. The police registration system enables police officers to tick a box, marking a case as a hate crime. This “hate crime flag” is not restricted to hate crimes only, but is used to also mark other cases, such as hate speech incidents. The flagging of hate crimes is not mandatory. Three boxes are currently available to police officers for flagging hate crimes 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 further mark the motive of a criminal case when the suspect has been identified. There is thus a duality in “recording motive”: hate crime flags and the motive box.  It is not obligatory to mark/select/define the motive of the crime because this is not required by the law. From the list of motives available in the electronic database - the Police Information System, law enforcement agents can choose "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.

Please note that the above text may be subject to updates based on information provided by the National Point of Contact