Estonia

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EATG seeks to ensure that Europe-wide standards of up-to-date scientific evidence limit overly broad HIV criminalisation

28 Oct 2013
EATG’s new position paper on prosecutions for HIV non-disclosure, exposure and/or transmission published last week recommends that the criminal law should only be used in extremely rare and unusual cases where HIV is maliciously and intentionally transmitted and that Europe-wide … More

Last reviewed 01 June 2017

Country overview

Estonia has no HIV-specific law. The law is vague around causing harm to health and rape, with charges from a fine to 15 year imprisonment. It criminalized any act that ‘would’ transmit HIV via sexual contact without precautionary measures in place. Disclosure (and agreement to engage in sex) and/or precautinaty measures are defences.There are reports of prosecutions available.

Specific laws

Specific law enacted No

Only actual transmission of HIV to another person is subject to prosecution. Transmission of other sexually transmitted infections is subject to prosecution under the same laws.

Specific law criminalising HIV non disclosure, exposure, or transmission: No

Prosecuted using non-HIV specific laws: Yes

Prosecuted using both specific and non specific laws: No

Is non-disclosure actionable: No

Is exposure actionable: No

Is transmission actionable: No

Prosecutions

Number of prosecutions 3

There are two known prosecutions before 2004, and one in 2016.

Convictions

Number of convictions 2

At least

Laws

Applicable laws

Relevant Penal Codes of Estonia:

§118, 119 and 121 – causing health damage to someone.
§141 – rape.

This is not a HIV-specific law.
Only actual transmission is subject to prosecution.
Sentences range from a fine through to 15 years imprisonment.

Applicable key wording

§118. Causing of Severe Health Damage.

Causing of health damage to someone else is penalised with 4-12 years in jail, if it is causing a threat to someone’s life, severe physical disease, severe psychological disorder, discontinuance of pregnancy, a severe injury deforming significantly someone’s face or loss of an organ or its functioning.

§119. Causing of Severe Health Damage out of Negligence

Causing of severe health damage to someone else out of negligence is penalized with a fine or up to one year in jail.

§121. Physical abuse

Damaging the health of someone else, hitting, kicking or other form of physical abuse causing pain is penalised with fine or up to three years in jail.

§141. Raping

Having sexual intercourse with someone against her/his will or abusing her/his condition where he/she was not capable of understanding what is happening or expressing resistance is penalised with one to five years in jail. The same act is penalised with 6-15 years in jail, if the victim is under 18 years old, if the act is carried out by two or more people, if the act has caused the victim a severe health damage or the death of the victim, if the act has driven the victim to suicide or suicide attempt or if the act has been carried out by a person, who has previously already committed a rape.

Discussion

From the responses received, it appears that precise information is not available for the number of people prosecuted for transmitting HIV in Estonia. However, the Ministry of Justice has previously reported having knowledge of two people being convicted prior to 2004. Whilst Information is kept for prosecutions and convictions of all people tried under the above laws, no separate HIV specific statistics are kept.

Our survey respondent reported that the only mentioning of HIV that they could find in recent years concerned a trial that took place in June 2007.  However that trial primarily concerned a robbery in which the defendant threatened the victim with assult by an HIV infected needle.  The outcome is unknown.

The two people for whom information is available for convictions were both men; one Egyptian and one Estonian. No information was provided about occupations of the people convicted.

In 2016, an Estonian man, 33, was accused of HIV transmission to female complainant; police and media suggest there might be other affected women. The man was arrested; the prosecutor's office repeatedly issued the information in the media, that all women who had sex with him should apply to the police. More information is available at the HIV Justice Network via link http://www.hivjustice.net/site/cases/?casetype=-1&country=73&from-month=-1&from-year=-1&to-month=-1&...


Further reading

Elektroonilise Riigi Teataja is a searchable database of the Riigi Teataja (the State Gazette) - Estonian language only. It is a free to use official resource that provides the details of current legislation on all subject matters on any given date. It is available at: https://www.riigiteataja.ee/

The Estonian Network of People Liviing With HIV has a online website in Estonian, Russian & English language versions and provides useful links. http://www.ehpv.ee/

Cases

Overview

Prior to 2004 at least two men were convicted of criminal HIV transmission under the existing Penal Code (Articles 118/119, "causing of severe health damage", and/or Article 121, "physical abuse"). One man was Egyptian and the other man Estonian. In 2016, a man was prosecuted for HIV exposure and transmission with his identity disclosed by the prosecutor's office to search for other 'victims'.

Last reviewed 01 June 2017

Last reviewed 01 June 2017

Last reviewed 01 June 2017