DOI :10.26650/B/SS26.2020.014.04   IUP :10.26650/B/SS26.2020.014.04    Full Text (PDF)

Pre-trial Procedure in Estonia

Anneli SooRobert Aavık

The aim of this chapter is to cover the main rights of suspects in pre-trial criminal proceedings in Estonia, and Estonian procedural rules from initiation of criminal proceedings to detention and/or custody of a person to the decision to file charges, which marks the beginning of the court proceedings, and to the use of evidence gathered in pre-trial proceedings in court. While reading this chapter, one has to keep in mind that Estonian criminal procedure is mixture of inquisitorial and adversarial elements with trials being adversarial since the reform that came into force in 2004. However, the concept of pre-trial proceedings as proceedings in which State officials act with the aim to find the truth has remained untouched. Therefore, both suspects and their counsel who should in later stages of the proceedings contest the accusation made by the State in effective and adversarial manner, and the victim who has a choice to stand next to the prosecutor almost as a co-accuser, have to stay more or less passive in the pre-trial stages of proceedings unless they are called for any evidence gathering act. Interestingly, suspects have a right to counsel from the very beginning of criminal proceedings, a right that was indisputable in Estonia even before the European Court of Human Rights’ case of Salduz v. Turkey hit the waves in Europe. The main problem is that suspects, with or without their counsel, do not have general right to access to case materials in pre-trial proceedings, not for preparing their interrogation and not even for contesting the court’s decision on taking them into custody. The access to case materials is in most cases provided only after the Prosecutor’s Office comes to the conclusion that the pretrial proceeding activities have been completed. Suspects and counsel do have a right to request access to case file before this final time point, but it is up for the Prosecutor’s Office to grant the access based on specific circumstances of the case. These and other problems of Estonian criminal proceedings are discussed in detail in this chapter


  • 1. Legal acts google scholar
  • Code of Criminal Procedure. Adopted on 12 February 2003 by the Estonian Parliament Riigikogu (published: RT I 2003, 27, 166); last amended on 16 January 2020 (published: RT I, 20.12.2019, 8). In English available at < > accessed 16 January 2020. google scholar
  • Constitution of the Republic of Estonia. Adopted on the 28th of June 1992 by the referendum (published: RT 1992, 26, 349); last amended on 22nd January 2020 (published: RT I, 15.05.2015, 1). In English available at < > accessed 22 January 2020. google scholar
  • Directive 2012/13/EU on 22 May 2012 on the right to information in criminal proceedings, OJ 2012, L 142/1. google scholar
  • Explanatory Memorandum to the Draft of the Code of the Criminal Procedure. 594 SE, 9th Riigikogu. The draft is not available via Internet anymore and its hard copy is in the possession of the authors of this chapter. google scholar
  • 2. Court cases google scholar
  • Judgment of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court, 22 September 2010, court case no. 3-1-1-60-10. The judgement and orders of the Estonian Supreme Court are available unfortunately mostly only in Estonian at < > accessed 16 January 2020. google scholar
  • Judgment of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court, 26 June 2009, court case no. 3-1-1-52-09. Available in Estonian at < > accessed 16 January 2020. google scholar
  • Judgment of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court, 29 December 2006, court case no. 3-1-1-97-06. Available in Estonian at < > accessed 16 January 2020. google scholar
  • Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights, 27 Nov 2008, Salduz v. Turkey, application no. 36391/02. google scholar
  • Ruling of the Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court, 1 February 2012, court case no. 3-1-1-105-11. Available in Estonian at < > accessed 16 January 2020. google scholar
  • 3. Legal literature google scholar
  • Jaan Ginter, Anneli Soo ‘The Right of the Suspect to Counsel in Pre-trial Criminal Proceedings, its Content, and the Extent of Application’ [2012] JURIDICA INTERNATIONAL 170. google scholar
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  • Meris Sillaots, ‘On the Scope of Competitiveness of Court Proceedings in the Draft Code of Criminal Procedure’[2001] JURIDICA INTERNATIONAL 198. google scholar
  • Anneli Soo, ‘Divergence of European Union and Strasbourg Standards on Defence Rights in Criminal Proceedings? Ibrahim and the others v. the UK (13th of September 2016)’ [2017] EJCCL & CJ 327. google scholar


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