Judicial decisions

Treason

Former leading specialist of the Interal Security Service Vladimir Veitman was convicted  in 2013 of crimes qualified under sections 232, 241 subsection 1 and 243 of the Penal Code. Vladimir Veitman assisted persons acting at the request of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (including Valeri Zentsovi and Nikolai Jermakov) in non-violent activities directed against the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Estonia and collected with the intention of communication and communicated to them the state secrets of the Republic of Estonia and information classified as internal information. Veitman also provided illegal access to state the secrets to persons of foreign states. The court sentenced Vladimir Veitman to 15 years imprisonment and ordered the payment of 65 520,01 euros to the state for the reimbursement of the expenses of the civil action.

In 2012 former leading specialist of the Internal Security Service Aleksei Dressen was convicted of crimes qualified under sections 232 and 243 of the Penal Code and her wife Viktoria Dressen under section 232 and subsection 3 of section 22 and also sections 243 and subsection 3 of the section 22. Aleksei Dressen, with the contribution of her wife assisted persons acting at the request of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (including Jevgeni Tjažkun and Mihhail Loginov) in non-violent activities directed against the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Estonia and collected with the intention of communication and communicated to them the state secrets of the Republic of Estonia and classified information of foreign states. Furthermore, Aleksei Dressen collected with the intention of communication and with the help of Viktoria Dressen communicated information classified as internal information to persons acting at the request of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation.  The court sentenced Aleksei Dressen to 16 years imprisonment and Viktoria Dressen 6 years conditional imprisonment with the probationary period of 5 years.

Head of the Security Department of the Ministry of Defence and Adviser of the Ministry of Defence Herman Simm was convicted of crimes qualified under § 232 and § 243 of the Penal Code in 2009. Herman Simm assisted Valeri Zentsov acting at the request of the Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation and Sergi Jakovlev acting under a false identity of Antonio de Jesus Amurett Graf in non-violent activities directed against the independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Estonia and collected with the intention of communication and communicated to them the state secrets of the Republic of Estonia and classified information of foreign states. Furthermore, Herman Simm collected with the intention of communication and communicated information classified as internal information to Valeri Zentsov and Sergei Jakovlev acting under a false identity of Antonio de Jesus Amurett Graf. The court sentenced Herman Simm to 12 years and 6 months imprisonment and ordered the payment of 20 155 000 EEK to the state for the reimbursement of the expenses of the civil action.

 

International crimes not subject to statutory limitations

 

In investigating the arrests made during the first period of Soviet occupation (1940-1941) and the June deportation of 1941, criminal proceedings were initiated for the activities of the Head of the Saare County Department of the Estonian SSR People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (NKVD) and the Head of the Saare County Department of the People's Commissariat for State Security (NKGB) Vassili Riis (1910-1998) and the leading official of the ESSR NKVD, NKGB and the Ministry of State Security (MGB) Idel Jakobson (1904-1997). On the basis of thorough pre-trial investigation V. Riis was prosecuted for crimes against humanity as in 1941 he consented to arresting or deporting 1062 citizens of the Republic of Estonia. In 1996 the criminal proceeding was transferred to the Saare County Court but the trial was suspended due to poor health of the accused. The criminal proceeding was terminated on 26 March 1998 because of the death of Vassili Riis. 32 volumes of documentary evidence collected in pre-trial investigation on the activities of Idel Jakobson showed that there was reasonable doubt to suspect him of the repression of at least 1800 persons. As however I. Jakobson's health deteriorated, the Prosecutor's Office had to terminate the criminal proceeding in February 1997. Idel Jakobson died on 12 September 1997.

The same complications emerged in investigating crimes against humanity committed during the German occupation, first of all the fact that persons who could have been suspected of participating in crimes against humanity were dead by the 1990s. It should be pointed out that the abuses of the German occupation regime were thoroughly investigated already by the Soviet authorities. Right after occupying Estonia in 1944 the latter started to arrest persons who had served in the German army or had had even minimal contact with the occupation power of that time. During these mass arrests thousands of people were sentenced to actual imprisonment. Although large number of people were punished without any legal basis, as proved by numerous rehabilitations later, also persons were convicted who had committed crimes against humanity under international law.

Of those proceedings initiated by the Security Police, the criminal proceedings against Harry Männil (1920-2010) who had worked in the political police during the German occupation met with broad-scale public response. The 5-year long investigation confirmed that while working in the political police, H. Männil interrogated 7 persons, Jews among them. There was no evidence however that he would have participated in the execution, torturing or any other acts of violence against these persons. Neither is there evidence that H. Männil was aware of their being destined for execution or any other repression. In December 2005 the criminal proceeding was terminated. Already KGB had taken an interest in the activities of H. Männil but either they could not find any evidence regarding his participation in crimes against humanity.

One of the very first criminal proceedings initiated under the section of crimes against humanity by the Estonian Security Police in January 1995 was the investigation of the March deportation. On 25-29 March 1949 more than 20 000 people were deported from Estonia to Siberia in the course of the joint operation "Priboi" ("Breaker") organised by the USSR MGB and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD).

In the investigation of the March deportation the first judicial decision was reached on 22 January 1999 when the Lääne County Court convicted a former operational commissioner of the Lääne County Department of the Estonian SSR MGB Johannes Klaassepp (1921-2010) of the deportation of 23 persons and attempted deportation of 9 persons from Lääne County in 1949, sentencing him to 8 years suspended imprisonment with a probation period of 2 years. The Tallinn Circuit Court partially satisfied the appeal submitted by J. Klaassepp, finding evidence for the deportation of 15 persons and attempted deportation of 2 persons, but the judgement remained unaltered.

By the decision of the Pärnu County Court of 10 March 1999 a former Pärnu County operational commissioner of the ESSR MGB Vassili Beskov (1918) was convicted of the deportation of 7 families (21 persons) and attempted deportation of 2 families and he was sentenced to 2 years suspended imprisonment with a probation period of 3 years.

On 30 July 1999 the Pärnu County Court convicted a former Pärnu County operational commissioner of the ESSR MGB Mihhail Neverovski (1920-2000) of identifying 75 families or 278 persons who were then deported. According to the court decision M. Neverovski participated personally in the deportation of 8 persons and in the attempted deportation of 2 persons and he was sentenced to 4 years imprisonment. On 1 November 1999 the Tallinn Circuit Court replaced his actual imprisonment by 4 years suspended imprisonment with a probation period of 3 years.

On 17 March 1999 the Järve County Court proved a former operational commissioner of the Järva County Department of the ESSR MGB Vladimir Loginov (1924-2001) guilty of crimes against humanity (deportation of 16 persons) and terminated the criminal proceeding. Based on the court decision V. Loginov was placed in inpatient psychiatric hospital for coercive treatment until recovery.

By the judgement of the Tallinn City Court a former Harju County senior operational commissioner of the ESSR MVDJuri Karpov (1921-2012) was convicted of the deportation of 40 persons and attempted deportation of 20 persons. The Tallinn City Court did not satisfy the appeal of J. Karpov on 19 December 2002 and the judgement of the Tallinn City Court remained in force. The Supreme Court did not grant the appeal in cassation submitted by J. Karpov the leave to appeal, thus the judgment by the Tallinn City Court to sentence J. Karpov to 8 years suspended imprisonment with a probation period of 3 years took effect.

On 10 October 2003 the Saare County Court convicted August Kolk and Pjotr Kislõi of the deportation carried out on the island of Saaremaa in 1949 and sentenced them to 8 years suspended imprisonment with a probation period of 3 years for the commission of crimes against humanity. Both the Tallinn Circuit Court on 27 January 2004 and the Supreme Court on 21 April 2004 rejected the appeal submitted by A. Kolk and P. Kislõi and the court judgement remained in force. On 17 January 2006 the European Court of Human Rights did not grant the appeal submitted by A. Kolk and P. Kislõi against the Republic of Estonia the leave to appeal.

On 7 November 2006 the Saare County Court convicted Vladimir Kask of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to 8 years suspended imprisonment with a probation period of 3 years.

In the Saare County criminal episode of the March deportation altogether 12 persons were convicted: Saare County operational commissioners of the ESSR MGB Rudolf Sisask (1926), Stepan Nikejev (1924-2013), Boris Loho (1918-2001), Albert Kolga (1924-2006); an official of the central headquarters of the ESSR MGB August Kolk (1924) and militiamen of the Saare County Department of the ESSR MVD Pjotr Kislõi (1921), Viktor Martson (1921-2004),Vladimir Kask (1926), Heino Laus (1927-2006), Osvald Adamson (1927-2001), Leonid Maikov (1924-2001) andNikolai Žerebtsov (1921-2003).

Boris Loho, Osvald Adamson and Leonid Maikov died before the commencement of the trial. The proceedings against Nikolai Žerbtsov were terminated for health reasons before the commencement of the trial. In the course of long lasted trial also Heino Laus, Viktor Martson and Albert Kolga died. Due to deteriorated health conditions Rudolf Sisask and  Stepan Nikejev were exempted from trial.

Criminal proceedings regarding the deportation of 84 families (261 persons) from the island of Hiiumaa to Siberia were initiated in 2003. Based on the evidence collected by the Security Police in pre-trial investigation, the Lääne Circuit Prosecutor's Office prosecuted the former First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Leninist Communist Youth League of Estonia (ELKNÜ) Arnold Meri (1919-2009) who was in charge of the deportation operation on the island of Hiiumaa on 25 March 1949. The trial against A. Meri who was charged with genocide started in Kärdla on 20 May 2008. The statement of charges was read out to A. Meri but referring to the need for forensic medical examination, A. Meri's defence counsel filed a request to defer the criminal proceedings to the year 2009. On 27 March 2009 Arnold Meri died and the criminal proceeding was terminated.

On 6 February 2008 a militia operational commissioner of the Hiiu County Department of the Ministry of Internal AffairsVello Paltmann (1929-2009) was declared a suspect in the Hiiumaa criminal episode of the March deportation for deporting 4 families (11 persons). The Lääne Circuit Prosecutor's Office brought charges against V. Paltmann on 29 August 2008 and the trial in the Kärdla Courthouse was scheduled for 14 April 2009. V. Paltmann died three days prior to the trial.

In addition to the investigation of deportations the Security Police has also investigated thoroughly the killings of forest brothers. Charges have been brought against officers of the Soviet security as well as their assassin agents who murdered Estonian men who resorted to armed resistance to the occupation power or were hiding from the mobilization into the Red Army.

At the end of 1998 the Security Police initiated criminal proceedings to investigate the activities of a former assassin agent of the ESSR MGB Karl-Leonhard Paulov (1924-2002). The pre-trial investigation ascertained that as an agent of the MGB K.-L. Paulov killed the civilian Aleksander Sibul in Võru County, rural municipality of Veriora, on 18 October 1945 and the civilians Alfred Pärl and Aksel Pärl on 27 October 1946. During the trial the Põlva County Court re-qualified the act committed by K.-L. Paulov as murder for the purpose of personal gain. The Tartu Circuit Court did not alter the court judgement but the Supreme Court annulled the judgements made by the Põlva County Court and the Tartu Circuit Court and remitted the case to the Põlva County Court with a different panel composition for a second hearing. On 29 July 2000 the Põlva County Court convicted K.-L. Paulov of crimes against humanity and sentenced him to 8 years imprisonment in maximum-security prison. The Tartu Circuit Court did not alter the judgement of the Põlva County Court on 5 October 2000 and the Appeals Selection Committee of the Supreme Court did not grant the appeal in cassation the leave to appeal. Thus, the penalty of 8 years imprisonment imposed upon K.-L. Paulov entered into force. It is also the only occasion when Estonian courts have sentenced a person who has committed a crime against humanity to actual imprisonment. K.-L. Paulov died of old age on 6 February 2002 while serving his sentence in Murru prison.

As for the other criminal cases related to the murder of forest brothers, on 2 September 2003 the Tartu Circuit Court convicted the former Head of the Elva District Department of the ESSR Ministry of Internal Affairs Vladimir Penart(1925) and his assassin agent Rudolf Tuvi (1925-2008) of murdering the civilians Oskar Rumm, Vendo Saks and Paul Miks in Elva in 1953-1954. On 18 December 2003 the Supreme Court did not grant the appeal in cassation submitted by V. Penart the leave to appeal. On 29 March 2004 V. Penart lodged an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights against the Republic of Estonia but the Court refused the appellant's demand to appeal, providing a well-reasoned decision for it.

In the summer of the same year also August Kolk and Pjotr Kislõi convicted of the Saaremaa deportation of 1949 lodged an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights against the Republic of Estonia. The content of the appeals and the legal reasons provided by the Court were identical in both cases.

The appellants emphasized that pursuant to the principles of criminal law a person is not punishable for an act that was not a crime pursuant to the law in force at the time of its commission. The European Court of Human Rights, on the contrary, confirmed in its decisions of 17 January 2006 and 24 January 2006 that murdering and deporting of civilians was recognised as a crime against humanity already under Article 6c of the Charter of the Nürnberg Tribunal of 1945. In its decision the European Court of Human Rights equalized in essence the crimes of Communism and Nazism, corroborating that the same international principles and legal sources apply for both. The court came to the conclusion that even if the acts committed by V. Penart, A. Kolk and P. Kislõi were regarded as "lawful" pursuant to the Soviet law, they were however crimes against humanity pursuant to the international law. Additionally, the court noted that Estonia was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940-1941 and 1944-1991 and in these periods the totalitarian occupation regime conducted large-scale and systematic repressions against the Estonian population.

Summary

Over the years altogether 12 criminal cases have been prosecuted in Estonian courts under the section of crime against humanity and 11 persons have been convicted:

  • 8 persons convicted of the March deportation of 1949 (J. Klaassepp, V. Beskov, M. Neverovski, V. Loginov, J. Karpov, A. Kolk, V. Kask and P. Kislõi).
  • 3 persons convicted of murdering forest brothers (K.-L. Paulov, V. Penart and R. Tuvi).
  • No person prosecuted for crimes against humanity has been acquitted.