President Kersti Kaljulaid has rejected the amended Defence Forces Organisation Act for the second time, arguing that the extended surveillance capabilities stipulated in the act violate citizens’ basic rights. The Supreme Court will look into the constitutionality of the act this fall.
The bill of amendments to the act would grant the Estonian Defence Forces (EDF) the right to secretly gain access to data of the state, municipalities, and legal as well as private persons. The amended act would also allow the EDF to clandestinely follow individuals, and carry out other surveillance activities against persons in urgent cases, and where necessary in the interest of the protection of the security of the EDF.
President Kersti Kaljulaid refused to promulgate the amended law for the first time in March this year, and reiterated her opinion in the matter again earlier this month. This means that the matter will now be for the Supreme Court to decide.
The president submitted the request on June 14, which means that the deadline for the court to react is 14 October. As plenty of the court’s justices are gone on holiday, the Constitutional Review Chamber will likely pick up the issue only in the fall, press spokespeople told ERR.
The Riigikogu voted in favor of the amendments on Feb. 20 this year. To enter into force, the changes need to be promulgated by the president. President Kaljulaid refused to give her assent and sent the law back to parliament, which in turn voted in favor of the amendments again.
In the opinion of the president, the amendments violate the basic rights of citizens, and are thus not constitutional. “The police and Internal Security Service have sufficient legal means to ensure the security of the Estonian Defence Forces and to anticipate potential dangers,” Kaljulaid explained her stance. “To give additional rights to the defence forces as well is not proportional, and substantially violates the basic rights of people in the security sector and the sectors close to it.”
The president also added that whether or not the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) and the Internal Security Service (ISS/Kapo) have the resources they need to get the job done. But: “This certainly isn’t reason enough to expand surveillance,” she said.