Human rights in Finland

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politics and government of

Human rights in Finland refers to freedom of speech, religion, association, and assembly as upheld in law and in practice.[1] Individuals are guaranteed basic rights under the constitution, by legislative acts, and in treaties relating to human rights ratified by the Finnish government. The constitution provides for an independent judiciary.[1]

Finland has been ranked above average among the world's countries in democracy,[2] press freedom,[3] and human development.[4]

Amnesty International has expressed concern regarding some issues in Finland, such as alleged permitting of stopovers of CIA rendition flights, the imprisonment of objectors to military service, and societal discrimination against Romani people and members of other ethnic and linguistic minorities.[5][6]


On 6 December 1917, Finland declared independence. Previously, Finland had been a part of Sweden (1253–1808) and then an autonomous part of Russia (1809–1917).

Justice system

Capital punishment

In peace time, as an independent state, Finland's criminal justice system has never invoked the death penalty. In 1825, when Finland was an autonomous state under Russia, Tahvo Putkonen was executed. His was the last peacetime execution. In 1944, during World War II, the last wartime executions were carried out.

Search and seizure

Under Finnish law, no Court ordered search warrant is required in order for police to conduct a search and seizure procedure.[7] The European Court of Human Rights and the Finnish Parliamentary Deputy Ombudsman have been critical of improper search and seizure procedures used by the Finnish police.[8][9]

Freedom of speech

In April 2016 Finland's national broadcaster Yle became under pressure from the Finance Minister Alexander Stubb and tax authorities to hand over information related to the extensive Panama Papers data leak. This may jeopardise freedom of speech in Finland and the media access in any news related to corruption in Finland. Alexander Stubb has repeatedly expressed his willingness to forgive all financial crimes related to tax havens (last time in his statements during the Government hearing in the Parliament in connection to Panama papers).[10] Finland’s tax authorities have threatened to secure search warrants to raid Yle’s premises and journalists’ homes in pursuit of the so-called Panama Papers.[11] About a dozen Finnish lawyers or Finnish business persons have worked with Mossack Fonseca to build tax companies from 1990 to year 2015.[12]

Elections and civil contribution

In 1907, Finland adopted universal suffrage, making the nation one of the first to allow all adult citizens, regardless of wealth or gender, to vote and stand for election. Within the population, 3.6% are foreign residents.[13] Since 1917, two general referendums have been held. The first was the Finnish prohibition referendum, 1931 and the second, the Finnish European Union membership referendum, 1994.

Since 2012, citizens' initiatives have allowed citizens to request that the parliament consider proposed legislation. A minimum of 50,000 supporters must sign a petition to allow the initiative to proceed. The first successful citizens' initiative was the banning of fur farming. Signatures supporting the initiative were received from 70,000 citizens in the designated time period.[14] The second citizen's initiative was for equal marriage rights in 2013.[15]


Women's rights

After New Zealand and Australia, Finland was the third nation to allow women to vote. In 1907, Finland was the first nation to allow women to vote and to also compete in a parliamentary election. The first female minister elected to the Parliament of Finland was Miina Sillanpää. She served as the Second Minister for Social Affairs in the 1926 to 1927 parliamentary term. Tarja Halonen, who served from 2000 to 2012, was the first female President of Finland.

In 1878, in Porvoo, Charlotta Backman became the first female director of a post office.

In 1886, Vera Hjält (born 1857 - died 1947) opened a factory to manufacture her patented carpenters' bench. In 1903, she became the first woman in Finland to be made a trade inspector. She was required to end disputes and strikes. She worked to end discrimination against women in the work place. Hjalt was a Member of Parliament for ten years.

Tekla Hultin (born 1864) was the first woman to receive a doctorate from the University of Helsinki (then the Helsingin Keisarillinen Aleksanterin yliopisto.) She went on to study in Russia and France and was a Member of Parliament for 15 years. (Hultin's mother also wanted to study but her father prevented her from doing so.)

Until 1926, Finnish women applying for public office had to apply for an exemption based on gender. In this respect, equality was not achieved until 1975.[16]

Finnish women may inherit and own property. Aurora Karamzin (born 1808 - died 1902) inherited her ex-husband, a Russian, Paul Demidov's estate. After the death of her second husband, Andrei Karamzin, Karamzin managed her property and industrial assets. She participated in social security work in Finland and in Russia and worked in education and health care. In 1867, she founded the Helsingin Diakonissalaitos.[16]

On 6 March 1988, the first women to become priests were ordained in Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. The first woman to become a bishop was elected in 2010.[17]

Each year, in Finland, up to twenty women are killed by their husbands or ex-husbands.[18]

Gender equality at work

The UN Human Rights Committee has expressed concern about gender inequality in Finnish working life.[19] In 2013, the difference between salary received by men and that received by women, for the same work, was 8 percent. Employers provided more training for men, while women applied for training in greater numbers than men.[20]

Finnish law calls upon companies with more than thirty employees to have a gender equality plan. In August 2013, many companies neglected to obey this law. However, the law was poorly enforced.[21]

Children's rights

Finland has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC).[22] Having children work or beg is forbidden as is any misuse of children.[23]

The number and backgrounds of teen prostitutes in Finland is not recorded. Buying or attempting to buy sex from a minor is a crime in Finland. Legal responsibility for the deed always lies with the buyer.[24]

Indigenous rights

In February 2013, Finland had not signed the international Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples nor the Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989 (ILO-convention 169).[25] In March 2014, Finland had not ratified the ILO-convention 169.[26] Sauli Niinistö, the President of Finland, called the treaty irrelevant. However, the Sami people of Finland's north and Lapland have had no special rights, for example, in land rights for reindeer herding.[27] In October 2011, the UN Human Rights Committee called for the cessation of the killing of reindeer in Nellim, Inari. Reindeer owners and the Metsähallitus (Department of Forestry) were in dispute over this matter.[28]

Military and civilian service

Finnish citizens undergo compulsory military service. Civilian service was 13 months in duration whereas conscripts, such as conscript officers, non-commissioned officers and certain specialists such as certain vehicle operators served only 12 months. The average duration of service in the army is 8 months. The inequity was justified by the hours of work performed by each group. In 2008, the duration of civilian service was changed to 12 months.[29]

Arms trade to undemocratic countries

In 2011, the government of Finland granted arms export licenses to twenty-five countries in contravention of European Union guidelines. In October 2011, the Finnish Ministry of Defence granted export licenses for the transport of sniper rifles and ammunition to Kazakhstan.[30]

Migrant workers

By 2011, Finland had not signed the United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.[22] Estonian workers, for example, may not have been paid for their work.[31] Again as an example, in December 2011, a Chinese restaurant in Ideapark Lempäälä was ordered to pay €298,000 for migrant workers' losses in tax, wages and penalties.[32] In 2013, Lauri Ihalainen, the Minister for Labour, called for equality in the labour market.[33]

Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant construction project

During the Olkiluoto Nuclear Power Plant construction project, trade unions demanded equality in conditions for foreign workers.[34][35] In November 2011, Polish migrant workers at Elektrobudowa disputed unpaid wages and trade union membership. The trade unions took their case to court. Thirty-two people were fired for joining the trade union Sähköliitto.[36]

Human right violations in Thailand

British migrant rights expert Andy Hall (activist) who worked for the Finnish NGO Finnwatch in Thailand was handed a four-year suspended prison sentence for his report on human rights abuses in the country's fruit-processing industry which products were exported in Finland.[37] The charges related to publication of a report Cheap Has a High Price in 2013 by Finnwatch, a Finnish civil society organisation. The report outlined allegations of serious human rights violations, as use of child labour, at Natural Fruit Company's pineapple processing plant in Prachuap Khiri Khan province in Thailand. The products were imported in Finland by several trade companies (Kesko, Siwa and S Group).[38]

According to the Finnwatch report in 2015 Tokmanni had also failed to adequately assess its suppliers and in exercising human rights due diligence in its own imports supply chains. According to the report at Great Oriental, migrant workers had no visas or work permits and were paid illegally low wages.[39]


In March 2013, Erkki Tuomioja, the Finnish Foreign minister joined other nations in calling for stricter observance of human rights in the European Union.[40] In 2014, Finnwatch alleged several Finnish companies abroad had acted unethically.[41]

In January 2013, Open Society Foundations, a US human rights organisation, alleged that CIA flights had operated through via Finland in secret. The Amnesty organisation supported the allegations.[42][43]

In 2014, Kalla fakta, a Swedish television program, reported that Stora Enso used child work in its Pakistan activities and that the company was aware of this from 2012.[44]

See also


  1. 1 2 "Freedom in the World 2013: Finland". Freedom House. 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-30.
  2. "Scores of the Democracy Ranking 2012". Global Democracy Ranking. 2012. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
  3. "Freedom of the Press: Finland". Freedom House. 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
  4. "Statistics of the Human Development Report". United Nations Development Programme. 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
  5. "Annual Report 2013: Finland". Amnesty International. 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
  6. "Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012: Finland". U.S. State of Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. 2012. Retrieved 2013-09-27.
  7. 1987.
  10. Opinion: Panama Papers should not jeopardise freedom of speech YLE News 29.4.2016
  11. Taxman threatens to search Yle premises in pursuit of Panama Papers YLE 29.4.2016
  12. Suomalaisia välikäsinä veroparatiisiyhtiöiden pyörittämisessä 29.04.2016 MOT
  14. "Parliament mulls how to deal with citizens’ initiatives" 13 March 2013.
  15. "Gay marriage initiative proceeds to Parliament with 162,000 backers." 19 September 2013.
  16. 1 2 Kaari Utrio, Kalevan tyttäret Suomalaisen naisen tarina, Amanita 1987 (Finnish)
  17. "Finnish church marks 25 years of women priests." 11 March 2013.
  18. Espoon surmien ytimestä paljastuu naisiin kohdistuva väkivalta, HS 11.1.2010 C5, toiminnanjohtaja Frank Johansson Amnesty International (Finnish)
  19. "Finland lags behind in business world equality for women." 14 August 2013.
  20. "Gender wage gap persists."
  21. Equality of sexes poorly enforced at workplaces 15 August 2013.
  22. 1 2 "Amnesty International Annual Report 2011." 2011 p372-373.
  23. "Helsinki ei hyväksy lasten kerjäämistä." 5 April 2012.
  24. "Teen prostitution a silent problem in Finland." Yle News 3 June 2013.
  25. "Finland last to sign indigenous rights treaty?" 8 February 2013.
  28. "YK pyysi säästämään Nellimen porot" HS 27 September 2011. A6.
  30. "Finland grants arms deals to human rights violators." 20 March 2013.
  31. Sanomat H. "Virolaisilta huijataan palkkoja Suomessa." 3 April 2012. A4
  32. Sanomat H. 13 December 2011. A9
  33. "Minister compares underpaying foreigners to slave trade." 4 February 2013.
  34. "Ammattiliittojen työmaan saarto peruuntui viime hetkellä." Kansan Uutiset 18 November 2011.
  35. "Puolalaisille hyvitys, Olkiluodon saarto peruuntui, Sovinnosta huolimatta kolmen miljoonan palkkakiista on vielä auki." Kansan Uutiset 2 November 2012.
  36. "Sähköliitto: Olkiluodossa irtisanottu liittoon kuulumisen vuoksi." Turun Sanomat 18 November 2011.
  37. Finnwatch rights investigator sentenced in Thailand yle 20.9.2016
  38. Oikeutta ananastehtaan varjossa yle 10.7.2016
  39. On the borderline of responsibility. Case studies on the production of Tokmanni’s own imports products in Thailand Finnwatch 10/2015
  40. "Finland pressing for more European Union rights powers."
  41. "Suomen otettava ryhtiliike yritysten ihmisoikeusvastuun varmistamisessa." 28 January 2014.
  42. "Report details alleged CIA stopovers in Helsinki." [ 6 February 2013.
  44. "Stora Enso kände till barnarbet." Dagens Nyheter 9 March 2014. (Swedish)

U.S. State Department Annual Reports

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