WRI Council Statement on Conscientious Objection in Finland


The War Resisters' International Council Meeting in Seoul, Korea 30 June - 2 July 2005 demands that the Finnish government change its current stand of ignoring the demands of the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC). No person should be imprisoned or otherwise punished based on his or her convictions, and one of the most evident such cases is that of refusing to learn how to kill other people. Finland has for too long evaded its responsibility to grant its citizens full rights of conscientious objection. Human rights are not an issue of internal political debate, but inalienable rights of all members of the human family.

On June 30 Finland sentenced two total objectors to imprisonment for refusing to serve in neither military nor non-military service. Henrik Rosenberg, hiphop-artist Iso-H from the group Fintelligens, was sentenced in Helsinki district court to 195 days and a glass astisan Tero Isokääntä in Loviisa district court to 197 days of imprisonment. Such sentences should be revoked.

The court cases were the first after the Finnish government made its decision in June not to comply with the demands of the UNHRC to amend its legislation to meet the criteria of UN convention on civil and political rights. The UNHRC stated in 2004 its "concern at the fact that the preferential treatment accorded to Jehovah's Witnesses has not been extended to other groups of conscientious objectors" as well as that Finland "should fully acknowledge the right to conscientious objection and, accordingly, guarantee it both in wartime and in peacetime; it should also end the discrimination inherent in the duration of alternative civilian service". Although there are other countries that do not fulfill their duty in carrying out human rights, that is no grounds for states like Finland to degrade their former systems of human rights and justice. Nor it is to believe that such states could evade their fundamental responsibilities in the fading light of their former achievements within the international community. The problems stated by UNHRC are not, however, the only problems of conscientious objection in Finland. Not even the current non-military act is implemented properly when it comes to the accomodation costs of men performing non-military service. This, as well as the disproportionate period of service, results in all conscientious objectors to be financially in an inferior position to those performing military service. In addition, the disciplinary actions towards conscientious objectors do not meet the same standards applied to other judicial procedures. In no other crime resulting in imprisonment is the sentence decided based on mere calculatory procedure, without any consideration of the conditions of the particular case in question.

In refusing to amend the legislation on conscientious objection in Finland there can be no other proper reasoning than that of disregard for international human rights. Such negligence must not be tolerated.

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