1 December 2004 - Prisoners for Peace Day

Imprisonment of conscientious objectors in Finland

The focus of Prisoners for Peace Day 2004 is the imprisonment of conscientious objectors in Finland. Finland, a member state of the European Union, continues to imprison conscientious objectors who refuse to perform a substitute service which is punitive in length. And the number of imprisoned conscientious objectors is growing - now standing at about 70-80 annually.

As Kaj Raninen from the Finnish Union of Conscientious Objectors points out, Finnish militarism is a heritage of the Second World War, a heritage that lives on even 15 years after the end of the Cold War. It is therefore important not only to demand from Finland to bring the law on conscientious objection in line with European and international standards, but also to support Finnish COs and antimilitarists in their struggle against the special Finnish variant of militarism, which is caught in the past.

In September 2004, War Resisters' International published a report on "Imprisonment of Conscientious Objectors in Finland", and submitted the report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva, which examined Finlands' human rights record in its autumn session. In its concluding observations, the Human Rights Committee took on board WRI's two main concerns: That Finland only recognises the right to conscientious objection in times of peace; and the punitive length of Finland's substitute service. We hope that with the backing of the UN, Finland will now finally improve its regulations for conscientious objectors, so that WRI's Prisoners for Peace Honour Roll won't list imprisoned conscientious objectors from Finland any longer.

The Prisoners for Peace Honour Roll lists prisoners from many different countries, but at it is certainly far from being complete. The main purpose of the list is to raise awareness for the continued imprisonment of peace activists and conscientious objectors all over the world, and to generate support. Please take a few minutes on 1 December to write greeting cards to prisoners - and give generously to War Resisters' International, so that we can continue to support prisoners for peace.

The unedited version of the concluding observations of the UN Human Rights Committee is available in French at http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/%28Symbol%29/674dea2d9acbe4adc1256f43005b3e55?Opendocument