Finland

Germany has been joined by Finland, Netherlands, and Denmark in a suspension of arms sales to Saudi Arabia. The decisions follow the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and announcements by the United Nations that Yemen is experiencing the worst famine the world has seen for 100 years.

On 23 February the Helsinki appeal court decided to repeal a sentence given to a total objector by a district court. The objector said that his pacifist convictions were a reason for his conscientious objection. He had been sentenced for "refusal from civilian service". The appeal court decided that sentencing him would be discriminatory compared to Jehovah's Witnesses preferential treatment. Jehovah's Witnesses are exempt from military and civilian service in peace time.

For the past few years, the Finnish arms trade has been changing. Data compiled by the peace and security think-tank SaferGlobe shows that the largest export region used to be the European Union, since 2015 the top position has been taken by Middle Eastern countries.

19 years old high school student Risto Miinalainen started to serve his 173 days prison sentence today 4 Oct. A group of 20 people, composed of his friends and activists of Finnish Union of Conscientious Objetors, walked with him from his school to the gates of Helsinki prison through the centre of the city today.

Risto was charged on "refusal from civilian service" (siviilipalveluksesta kieltäytyminen). He was sentenced by Eastern Uusimaa district court (Itä-Uudenmaan käräjäoikeus) on 20 April 2016. Helsinki sppeal court (Helsingin hovioikeus) refused to give him a permission to appeal on 6 July. Majority of Finnish total objectors are sentenced to home detention instead of prison, but Risto chose the prison sentence after reading about the negative experiences of some total objectors who has been sentenced to home detention.

Return to Conscientious Objection: A Practical Companion for Movements

Kaj Raninen has been involved in the antimilitarist movement since the beginning of the 1990s.  He is currently general secretary of the Finnish Union of Conscientious Objectors.  Ruka Toivonen, meanwhile, is a Helsinki based transgender activist and student. They study queer theory, prison systems and social history, but value their experience in radical grassroots organising as their highest and most precious education.  They have been involved in the Finnish Union of Conscientious Objectors for many years.  Here, they discuss the relative strengths and weaknesses of conscientious objection campaigns that focus on total objection and alternative service. 
 
Finland still has comprehensive conscription for men.  Even though the number of people doing military service has declined and will most likely continue to do so, about two thirds of all men coming of age still go through military service (about 20,000 per year).  Women have had the option of volunteering for the army since 1994, and a few hundred enrol each year.  Approximately 7-8% of men choose an alternative, non-military service which is twice the length of the shortest period of military service (165 compared to 347 days) and the same length as the longest.

In Finland, conscription is among the most glorified institutions of the state among the people. For most of last decade polls have shown about 70 % support for keeping conscription, and none of the major political parties want to abolish it. In the beginning of 2015 the Ministry of Defence and the armed forces made a decision to cut the reserve by about a third, to 230,000 people, opening for the first time the chance to look for alternatives to mandatory conscription. The state faces broad international criticism for not respecting the rights of conscientious objectors.

On Monday 13th April, groups across the world took action on military spending. The Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) is now in it's fifth year, and WRI affiliates took action to highlight the huge amounts of money that are wasted on military expenditure across the globe.

In Finland, two WRI affiliates came together to display a banner reading "If we had $1.8 trillion, we'd would #movethemoney to education, renewable energy, healthcare" in multiple languages. Members of South Korean group World Without War are currently touring Europe, met with members of AKL (the Union of Conscientious Objectors), and took part in the action.

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