Today the European Court of Human Rights ruled in Estonia’s favour regarding the complaints* of 45 retired Russian military servicemen against the Republic of Estonia, finding that Estonia had not violated any rights protected by a convention.
The applicants of the complaints alleged that they have been discriminated against and their proprietary rights—the right to a pension—had been violated. The accusers felt that if they are being paid a pension on the basis of 1994’s “Agreement between the Republic of Estonia and the Russian Federation concerning social guarantees for the military pensioners of the Russian Federation staying on the territory of the Republic of Estonia”, then they are left without a pension and they have been discriminated against, because generally it is not a condition for receiving a pension in Estonia that a person may not be receiving a pension from a foreign country as well, but the aforementioned Estonia-Russia agreement does contain this stipulation. In their complaint, the accusers based their argument on the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and its Protocol No. 1.
In its ruling today, the Human Rights Court found that the complaint is admissible; however, in the course of its analysis it reached the conclusion that the rights of the applicants were not violated. The court noted that a situation can only be called discrimination when equals are not treated equally. The court found that, in the given case, the plaintiffs were a special case bound by a special set of rules, and therefore their different treatment was justified.
The court also emphasised that there is a wide margin allowed to the state when the issue at hand deals with the general measures of economic or social strategies. The court agreed with Estonia’s explanation that in the given case one must take into consideration the particular historical context in which the 1994 agreement was signed, and also the fact that the retired military servicemen knew the conditions of receiving the Estonian pensions at the time that they decided to remain in Estonia.
Therefore, the court decided that the applicants are not comparable to any other group of pensioners in Estonia and therefore the rule that is in effect regarding their pensions does not violate their rights. Regarding negotiations for a new Estonia-Russian Federation pension agreement, the Court of Human Rights stated that holding such negotiations will not make the existing regulation discriminatory. In the case of other complaints issued, the Human Rights Court ruled the complaints inadmissible.
The plaintiffs’ property damage claim was the sum 5 318 669.28 kroons (339 850 EUR) and included the allegedly unpaid Estonian pension. Since the court did not meet the plaintiffs’ claim, the damage claim remains outstanding.
Plaintiffs have the right to appeal the case within three months of the decision being made and request that it be reviewed again by the 17 judges in the Grand Chamber. The Grand Chamber only discusses special cases—if a complaint raises questions regarding the interpretation of conventions or treatment or another generally important question.