The Chancellor of Justice is a constitutional institution with a long history of protection and promotion of human rights. It was established in 1938 by the then-in-force Estonian Constitution and re-established in accordance with the principle of continuity in the current Constitution, which was approved by a referendum in 1992 after Estonia restored its independence in 1991. The legal status of the Chancellor of Justice and the organisation of their office are specified by the Chancellor of Justice Act.
The Chancellor of Justice is an independent official appointed to office by the Riigikogu (Estonian Parliament) on the proposal of the President of the Republic for a term of seven years. The Chancellor of Justice has its own independent budget. Once a year, the Chancellor provides an overview of their activities to the Riigikogu.
The Chancellor of Justice exercises control over compliance of legislation of general application with the Estonian Constitution and laws, and international treaties. The Chancellor of Justice is also provided with the opportunity to challenge the constitutionality of legislation in the Estonian Supreme Court. In addition, the Chancellor performs tasks of the ombudsman – i.e. protects the fundamental rights and freedoms of people in relations with public authority.
Since 2004, the Chancellor of Justice has been tasked with resolving discrimination disputes, which arise between persons in private law and promoting the principle of equal treatment. To resolve a discrimination dispute, the Chancellor of Justice initiates a conciliation procedure upon receiving an application, requiring the consent of both parties to proceed.
The amendment of the Chancellor of Justice Act that entered into force on 18 February 2007 added the prevention of ill-treatment to the duties of the Chancellor of Justice. The Chancellor of Justice was appointed as the national preventive mechanism stipulated in the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT), whose duty is to inspect institutions where the freedom of people is restricted in order to prevent torture and other cruel or degrading treatment.
The amendment of the Chancellor of Justice Act that entered into force on 19 March 2011 added the protection and promotion of the rights of the child, i.e. performance of the duties of the Ombudsman for Children, to the duties of the Chancellor of Justice.
The Chancellor of Justice Act that entered into force on 1 January 2015 gave the Chancellor of Justice the competency to supervise compliance with fundamental rights and freedoms when the covert gathering, processing, use and supervision of personal data and related data by agencies of executive power is organised.
As of 1 January 2019, the Chancellor of Justice is tasked with promoting, protecting, and monitoring the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and is the National Human Rights Institution (NHRI).
The Chancellor of Justice may commence proceedings either on the basis of an application or on their own initiative. During their proceedings, the Chancellor of Justice has the authority to request testimonies from relevant parties, analyse documents, conduct inspections, perform on-site observations, and engage in other necessary actions. If a violation is found, the Chancellor of Justice can present their position to the respective authority, make recommendations, apply to the Supreme Court for the invalidation of an unconstitutional act, speak at the sessions of the Riigikogu and the Government of the Republic, present a special report to the Riigikogu, express opinions in the media, and more.
The Chancellor of Justice is also a member of the International Ombudsman Institute (IOI), belongs to the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children (ENOC) and the networks of European Ombudsmen (ENO), the International Conference of Ombuds Institutions for the Armed Forces (ICOAF), police ombudsmen (IPCAN) and national preventive mechanisms against ill-treatment (NPMs).
Head of institution
Ms. Ülle Madise
Kohtu 8, 15193 Tallinn
Year of establishment
1938, re-established 1992
Year of accreditation
Number of staff
- Reviewer of the constitutionality of legislation
- National Preventive Mechanism under OPCAT Art. 3 (NPM)
- Ombudsman for Children under CRC Art. 4
- Monitoring Body under CRPD Art. 33(2)
- Equality Body
- Constitutional review
- Complaints handling
- Publishing research, recommendations, opinions
- Advising government, parliament and other public bodies
- Reporting to international and regional human rights mechanisms
- Cooperation with international and regional organisations
- Cooperation with civil society organisations
- Human rights education and training
- Awareness raising activities