JEVGENI KRIŠTAFOVITŠ The police were mistaken – a support action on the Estonian-Russian border does not require coordination

Jevgeni Krištafovitš
, lawyer, civic activist (Reform Party)
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Jevgeni Krištafovitš, lawyer, civic activist (Reform Party)
Jevgeni Krištafovitš, lawyer, civic activist (Reform Party) Photo: Madis Veltman
  • The police can only ban a public meeting or event that is against the law.
  • The court has also previously recognized detentions in Narva as illegal.

An artistic performance does not require approval, and only participants in an illegal act can be searched for, lawyer Jevgeni Krištafovitš writes in defense of a recent action, in the course of which slogans supporting Ukraine were projected onto a representation of the Russian Federation.

Recently, a lightshow was organized at the border of Estonia and the Russian Federation. Slogans supporting Ukraine were projected onto the closed building of the consulate of the Russian Federation. The objective of the action was to draw attention to Russia’s aggression, but it was not coordinated with the police.

The police are calling on the organizers to get in touch to explain their motives and to agree on future coordination of their activities with the police.

Even a public meeting, if it takes place without prior registration, is not prohibited in Estonia.

The law enables any kind of actions to be carried out without coordination with the police. Even in Narva. To project onto the closed building of the consulate general or the bridge, to write one’s position onto the asphalt with chalk, to walk around with balloons, a flag or some other symbol. And any suggestion that such activity is undesirable in a state based on the rule of law is unacceptable.

Also, the organizers of the action are responsible for following the laws and norms of behavior generally accepted in society. According to the Law Enforcement Act, only public meetings must be registered with the police. If the event is an artistic performance and not a public meeting, it is basically impossible to register it as such.

And even a public meeting, if it takes place without prior registration, is not prohibited in Estonia. However, if such a meeting has an organizer, they must bear in mind the responsibility for possible consequences if the situation at the meeting suddenly gets out of control or there is a danger to the participants.

The police can only ban a public meeting or event that is against the law. Organizers may be searched for or other investigative and surveillance procedures may be carried out only if the activities of the organizers contain elements of guilt. For example, if the symbol of the aggressor country or its armed forces appeared in a public space instead of the flag of Ukraine.

Therefore, the desire of the police to ensure the safety of protest participants as well as public order is commendable, but a lack of coordination does not automatically make any public expression of opinion illegal.

There have already been cases in the past when police in Narva have arrested activists to prevent statements with an anti-war context from appearing on the asphalt. The court declared these detentions illegal and ordered the police to pay compensation for depriving people of their freedom. If this happens again, new appeals to the court will follow.

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