The Limitations of Human and Civil Rights in the Era of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Activity of the State and Law

The Case of Estonia




Estonia, police, pandemic, civil disorder, protests, Estonian Jurisdiction, Constitutional Law, Human and Civil Rights


Restrictions in the sphere of civil rights and freedoms introduced by governments led to the numerous demonstrations of citizens in the whole world. During street protests, they expressed their disapproval of the radical measures taken by authorities. The main research problem of this paper relates to the impact of repression on the course of social protest using the example of Estonia. The findings of the study will serve as the basis for formulating more general conclusions concerning protests in the pandemic era. We will describe repressive and non-repressive protest policing from the spring of 2020 to the autumn of 2021. Having in mind the above, we formulated two principal research aims. The first of them refers to the identification of the main reasons behind the organisations of protests in Estonia and what steps the demonstrators took. The other, equally important research aim is to establish what factors influenced the course of demonstrations. In particular, the response of the police to civil disorder will be analysed. The thesis posed in this paper assumes that the high level of political culture, resulting in trust in the institution of the state, contributes to the de-escalation of protests and influences the non-repressive behaviour of the police towards demonstrators. The method used in this study is the qualitative source analysis text analysis. It draws on the technique of content analysis of the specific media coverage of the activities of the police and protest participants during the indicated period. The study rests on the reports that appeared on the most important websites and Internet portals reporting on the course of the protests.

Author Biographies

Joanna Marszałek-Kawa, Nicolaus Copernicus University

Nicolaus Copernicus University
Faculty of Political and Security Sciences
ul. Batorego 39L,
87-100 Toruń, Poland

Kateryna Holovko, National Aviation University

Doctor of Juridical Sciences, Professor
National Aviation University
Department of Constitutional and Administrative Law
03058, 1 Lyubomyr Huzar Avenue,
Kyiv, Ukraine


Bosek, L. (2021). Stan epidemii – aspekty konstytucyjne i prawnoporównawcze. Prawo w czasie pandemii Covid-19, 6–8. Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023).

Communicable Diseases Prevention and Control Act (2003). Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023).

Covid-19 Crackdowns: Police Abuse and the Global Pandemic (2020). Amnesty International, December 17, 2020. Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023).

Current restrictions (2022). In Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023).

Declaration of Emergency Situation in the Administrative Territory of the Republic of Estonia. (2020). No. 76. Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023).

della Porta, D. (1995). Social Movements, Political Violence, and the State. Comparative Analysis of Italy and Germany. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. DOI:

della Porta, D. and Reiter, H. (1998). Policing Protests: The Control of Mass Demonstrations in Western Democracies. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.

Earl, J. (2003). Tanks, Tear Gas, and Taxes: Toward a Theory of Movement Repression. Sociological Theory, 21(1), 44-68. Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023).

Emergency Act (2017). Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023).

BTI Transformation Index. (2022). Estonia Country Report 2022. BTI. Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023).

Estonian Protests Against Restrictions and Masks Dispersed by Police (2021). Baltic News Network, March 22, 2021. Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023).

Fernandes, L. A. (2008). Policing Dissent. Social Control and the Anti-Globalization Movement. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press.

Governments and Police Must Stop Using Pandemic as Pretext for Abuse (2020). Amnesty International, December 17, 2020. Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023).

How quarantine in Europe led to protests against forced vaccination (2021). Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023).

Human Rights in Estonia 2022 (2021). Estonian Human Rights Centre, December 7, 2021. Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023).

Hundley, J. R. (1968). The Dynamics of Recent Getto Riots. Detroit Journal of Urban Law, 45, 627–639.

Kallaste, K. (2021). Experts Consider Police Use of Force at Protests Excessive. ERR, April, 13, 2021. Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023).

Koźmiński, K. and Rudnicki, J. (2021). Doświadczenia doby COVID a tendencje rozwojowe współczesnego prawa. Prawo w czasie pandemii Covid-19, 10-11. Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023).

Kuurberg, M. (2020). COVID-19-Related Sanitary Crisis and Derogations under Article 15 of the Convention: Considerations in Estonia. East European Yearbook on Human Rights, 1, 3-18. DOI: 10.5553/EEYHR/258977642020003001001

Laanpere, L. (2022). Human Rights and COVID-19. Estonian Human Rights Centre, 14. Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023).

Lichbach, M. I. (1987). Deterrence or Escalation? The Puzzle of Aggregate Studies of Repression and Dissent. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 31(2), 266–297. DOI:

McAdam, D., Tarrow, S. and Tilly, Ch. (2004). Dynamics of Contention. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Piotrowski, R. (2021). Demokracja w stanie epidemii. Refleksje o doświadczeniach polskich. Prawo w czasie pandemii Covid-19, 9. Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023)..

Podkowik, J. (2021). Prawa człowieka w czasach zarazy – wyzwania dla sądowej ochrony praw jednostki w dobie pandemii Covid-19. Prawo w czasie pandemii Covid-19, 12. Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023).

Rasler, K. (1996). Concessions, repressions, and political protests. American Sociological Review, 61(1), 132–152.

Raudla, R. (2021). Estonian response to COVID-19 pandemic: learning, cooperation, and the advantages of being a small country. Revista de Administração Pública, 55(1), 111-121. Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023).

Restrictions on the Freedom of Movement and on Holding Public Meetings and Public Events as Necessary for Preventing the Spread of the COVID-19 Disease. No. 282. (2020). Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023).

Roberts, K. A., Cox, B. J., van Dijk, A., and del Pozo, B. (2021). Why Rights-based Policing Responses to Pandemics Are Good for The Police and Good for Policing. African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum. Cape Town: African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum

Tilly, C. (1978). From mobilization to revolution. Boston: Addison-Wesley.

UN Experts Call for an End to Police Brutality Worldwide. (2021). United Nations, August 11, 2021. Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023).

Waddington, D. P. (2007). Policing Public Disorder. Theory and Practise. Willan Publishing.

Waddington, P. A. J. (2003). Policing public order and political contention. Handbook of Policing. Willan Publishing.

Waszkiewicz, P. (2021). Wielki Brat Roku Pandemii. Nadzór w erze Covid-19. Prawo w czasie pandemii Covid-19, 47-48. Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023).

Whyte, A. (2021a). Riigikogu Committee Aiming for May 4 PPA/Health Board Powers Bill Reading. ERR News, April 24, 2021. Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023).

Whyte, A. (2021b). Bill Boosting Health Board-PPA Interface During Pandemics Passes Riigikogu. ERR News, May 12, 2021. Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023).

Whyte, A. (2021c). Eight Fined After Spring Anti-lockdown Tallinn Protests. ERR News, July 9, 2021. Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023).

Wright, H. (2021). Protesters Rally Against Coronavirus Restrictions in Tallinn, ERR News, October 23, 2021. Available at: (accessed on 15.05.2023).




How to Cite

Marszałek-Kawa, J., & Holovko, K. (2023). The Limitations of Human and Civil Rights in the Era of the COVID-19 Pandemic and the Activity of the State and Law: The Case of Estonia. Bratislava Law Review, 7(1), 89–100.

Funding data