STRASBOURG - The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) held Thursday that Estonia violated its obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights (Convention) in connection with arrests and detentions that followed April 2007 riots over the relocation of a World War II monument celebrating the Red Army.
On September 22, 1944, the Red Army wrested control of Tallinn from the Nazi war machine. Three years later, a monument presently referred to as the Bronze Soldier, but originally named the “Monument to the Liberators of Tallinn” was unveiled in the city. It was built above a burial site where Soviet soldiers had been laid to rest. The monument, pictured above, featured of a bronze-cast Red Army soldier set against a plain stone backdrop.
In 2004, a growing number of local residents began to vocally demand the statue’s removal. From 2006 onward, clashes began to occur with increasing frequency between groups advocating for and against the statue’s presence.
In 2007, the Estonian parliament enacted a law providing for the exhumation and reburial of remains buried in inappropriately located grave sites. The law further provided for the relocation of war monuments.
In April of that year, Estonian police cordoned off the area surrounding the monument in preparation for the exhumation process. The following evening, crowds of angry protesters chanting such slogans as “shame!” and “fascists!” closed in on the sight. Some members of the crowd attempted to break through police barricades.