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Estonian report Estonian report
by Euro Reporter
2012-11-14 11:09:09
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Estonia becomes a member of UN Human Rights Council

On Tuesday, elections for the UN Human Rights Council took place in New York and Estonia was elected to be a member of the council from 2013-2015, Estonian foreign ministry announced. Estonia’s candidacy received support from 184 out of 193 countries. Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet stated that this tremendous support indicates that Estonia is appreciated and taken seriously as a player in the international human rights sector. Foreign Minister Paet asserted that membership in the UN Human Rights Council is an important achievement for Estonia; it is undoubtedly also a great responsibility to be involved in a council that discusses human rights developments, challenges and violations all over the globe and that helps to prevent and react to conflicts and massive human rights violations. “The Human Rights Council has shown that it is capable of reacting quite quickly when serious violations of human rights arise,” added the foreign minister. Paet stated that promoting and protecting human rights is a priority of Estonia’s domestic and foreign policy. “Estonia presented its candidacy in 2005. The Foreign Ministry has focused its activities in order to achieve this important long-term goal,” added Foreign Minister Paet.
According to Paet, Estonia has increased its contribution and involvement in the UN year by year. “Estonia has joined most of the UN’s major human rights-related conventions and regularly presents reports on the implementation of these conventions. In recent years Estonia has systematically strengthened its reputation as a country that protects and promotes human rights internationally. Estonia’s priorities in the human rights sector have been introduced in many forums, relations have been intensified with similarly-minded countries, and support has been gathered for Estonia’s candidacy to the Human Rights Council,” added Foreign Minister Paet. Membership in the Human Rights Council is a logical continuation of Estonia’s international human rights activities to date in the UN as well as in other international organisations that Estonia is a member of.
As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, Estonia will prioritise the following topics: democracy, supporting fundamental rights and rule of law; protecting and promoting freedom of expression, including the increasingly important topic of internet freedom; the rights of women and children; matters related to the rights of indigenous peoples, and many others. The UN Human Rights Council is one of three councils in the UN with limited membership, which is made up of 47 elected and rotating member states from among all the regional groups. The council’s job is to protect and promote human rights all over the world. The Human Rights Council was established with a decision by the UN General Assembly on 15 March 2006 as the successor of the UN Commission on Human Rights. The creation of the Human Rights Council was an important step forward in protecting and promoting human rights all around the globe.


Estonia gets to vote online.

If anecdotal reports are anything to go by, millions of Americans on Tuesday are standing in the cold for hours to vote at their local polling places. But why should they have to? Many Americans can already pay their utilities online and bank online. Why can’t we vote over the Internet as well? That’s the question raised by Thad Hall, a political scientist and author of Electronic Elections. In theory, he says, allowing Americans to vote online could have all sorts of benefits. We wouldn’t have to endure hours outside in the chilly November air waiting to vote. We could do research online while voting for ballot initiatives. Americans overseas could cast ballots more easily. But, he notes, there are big potential downsides too, including the very real risk that the system could get hacked. Online voting isn’t a far-fetched idea. Estonians have been doing it since 2005. While only 2 percent of Estonians took advantage of the system when it first came out, that number rose to 25 percent by 2011. “Surveys have found that Estonians view their system as being very effective,” Hall says. “They have high confidence in it. They like it.”

What’s Estonia’s secret? For one, all Estonians are issued a government ID with a scannable chip and a PIN number that gives them a unique online identity — they can use this identity to file their taxes or pay library fines or buy bus passes. That makes Internet voting workable. (The votes are encrypted to preserve anonymity.) What’s more, Estonia has a proportional representation voting system, rather than a winner-take-all system like the United States. According to Hall, research has found that electoral fraud seems to pop up more frequently in winner-take-all systems — since there’s more at stake for the candidates. Indeed, far and away the biggest concern about Internet voting is that such a system would be highly susceptible to fraud or hacking. Over at MIT Technology Review, David Talbot recaps concerns by computer scientists at a recent conference on the topic: The unsolved problems include the ability of malicious actors to intercept Internet communications, log in as someone else, and hack into servers to rewrite or corrupt code. While these are also big problems in e-commerce, if a hacker steals money, the theft can soon be discovered. A bank or store can decide whether any losses are an acceptable cost of doing business. Voting is a different and harder problem. Lost votes aren’t acceptable. And a voting system is supposed to protect the anonymity of a person’s vote—quite unlike a banking or e-commerce transaction—while at the same time validating that it was cast accurately, in a manner that maintains records that a losing candidate will accept as valid and verified.

Hall agrees that those security concerns are legitimate. Still, the fact that online voting would make it much easier for many people to cast a ballot makes it an enticing prospect. Washington D.C., for one, tried to develop an Internet Voting pilot project back in 2010, though computer scientists found that the program was riddled with flaws and easily hacked. After that, it was back to the drawing board. The other big question, meanwhile, is whether Internet voting would actually expand participation at all. In a paper (pdf) in 2005, MIT’s Adam Berensky found that most electoral reform measures mainly benefit voters who were already highly motivated to vote. If that’s true, then online voting might simply make it easier and more convenient for dedicated voters and partisans to cast a ballot. It wouldn’t necessarily lure in those who aren’t voting currently.


Estonia’s police chief offers to resign over illegal radar guns

Raivo Küüt, Estonia’s director general of the Police and Border Guard Board has announced his resignation following a scandal in which police officers knowingly and illegally issued hundreds of speeding fines and corresponding late fees, reported ERR. Küüt said in his resignation statement that the scandal has put the police department “under strong public pressure and criticism,” adding “I have decided to leave my position in order to mitigate tensions and to resolve the disruption.”

Interior Minister Ken-Marti Vaher was quoted as saying that he would not recommend Küüt’s resignation to the government before next spring. Vaher, who oversees the police agency, said “I do not have reason to believe that the director general had tried to conceal the incident” based on consultation with the parties concerned, noting “the official inquiry was still ongoing.”

Last week, head of East Prefecture police department Aldis Alus also stepped down following the breakout of the scandal. The scandal broke out last week when the investigative journalism programme on ETV reported that in the course of six months in 2011, the police issued 178 speeding fines based on readings with an improperly calibrated radar gun.  ETV reported that thanks to an internal audit, Küüt and Alus know about the violations and the illegal fines for at least eight months, but did nothing to rectify the problem in the hope that it would not leak out. The third key person in the case is Alvar Ottokar who until recently was head of the police traffic department and had told policemen to continue using the faulty radar. At one point Alus and Küüt claimed that they had been decided by Ottokar who had also lied to both men claiming that certain parts of the radar had been replaced.

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