The overview of the activities of the Chancellor of Justice covers the period from 1 September 2019 to 31 August 2020. Among other things, this year’s annual overview includes a chapter on the emergency situation. Each of the photographs used in the design of the annual overview tells multiple stories. This little gallery illustrates the colourful selection of problems brought to the attention of the Office of the Chancellor of Justice. The authors of the photographs are the Chancellor of Justice and her colleagues.
In the overview, the Chancellor of Justice noted how pleased she was that our Constitution provided for an economical, effective and swift constitutional review procedure appropriate for a small country. She said that our system, unlike many others, gives the local council, the Riigikogu, the minister and the Government of the Republic a chance to smoothly fix an error made in adhering to the Constitution. ‘Usually, this is how it goes, and society is spared further tensions, things are mended and people’s rights are not violated. Even where an occasional dispute reaches the Supreme Court, it is still part of the completely normal affairs of the state,” Madise noted.
In the year under observation, the Chancellor of Justice received many complaints whose reasons, Madise says, can best be summarised as the forgetting of the role of being the people’s servant. On the other hand, many officials and politicians are devoted to ensuring Estonia’s success. She added that we should recognise those who have been prepared to make an effort and fix their mistakes, where necessary, and improve the work organisation.
‘Many problems seem to arise from the fact that people have forgotten the meaning of independent statehood and the advantages of being a small state. In our own Estonia we should not force small producers to create a job dedicated to paperwork. We do not need to visit a shed to count the sheep during the most time-critical farrowing season or harass undertakings with controversial demands. We cannot demolish and keep a dam at the same time. If the reply to a question about the meaning of a confusing statute in a specific situation, be it the availability of necessary services for a disabled family member or, for example, the installation of a sign saying ‘Cucumbers and potatoes’ at the gate to the farmstead, is a numb quote from the statute that does not say anything to the enquirer, they will simply be at a loss at best. People deserve a clear, understandable and quick reply to the question that they actually need an answer to in real life. This is the essence of the principle of good governance,’ said the Chancellor of Justice.
The key function of the Chancellor of Justice, which is constitutional review, is supported by the office’s roles as an ombudsman, ombudsman for children, a national preventive mechanism against the cruel treatment of individuals, an overseer of the agencies engaged in covert operations, a national human rights institution and a protector and promoter of the rights of people with disabilities.
During the year the Chancellor of Justice received a total of 4,206 various kinds of enquiries, requests and letters (3,782 the year before).