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TITLE:  FINLAND HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1993                            
DATE:  JANUARY 31, 1994


Finland is a constitutional republic and a multiparty, 
parliamentary democracy.  Executive power is vested in the 
President.  The Cabinet, consisting of the Prime Minister and 
16 Ministers who are responsible to Parliament, works with the 
President in governing the country.  Legislative power is held 
by the unicameral Parliament.  Judicial power is exercised by 
an independent judiciary, including the Supreme Court and 
Supreme Administrative Court.

The security apparatus is controlled by elected officials and 
supervised by the courts.  Finland has a mixed economy with 
state owned, privately owned, and publicly owned companies.  
Citizens are free to pursue their legitimate private interests, 
hold private property, and engage in economic activity without 
government interference.

During 1993 there were no reported violations in Finland of 
fundamental human rights.  Members of national minorities and 
women enjoy the same economic and political rights as all other 
citizens, although occupational segregation by sex is common 
and leadership positions (in non-elected offices) in both the 
private and public sectors remain heavily male-dominated.  
Individuals are free to pursue their religious beliefs.


Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing

Killing for political motives by the Government or opposition 
political organizations does not occur.

     b.  Disappearance

No cases of disappearances, abduction, or clandestine detention 
were reported.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

Freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment 
or punishment is guaranteed by law and is respected in 
practice.  By law, prisoners must be treated justly with 
respect for their human dignity and without distinction on the 
basis of race, sex, language, nationality, religious or 
political conviction, social position, wealth, or any other 

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Freedom from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment or exile is 
guaranteed by law and respected in practice.  Police may hold a 
suspect for up to 7 days without charge.  The suspect has 
access to a lawyer during that time.  Once arrested, the 
accused must be given a court hearing within 8 days in a city 
or within 30 days in rural areas.  The state pays legal fees 
for indigent defendants.

Circumstances surrounding the arrest are subject to judicial 
review at the time the accused is brought to trial.  If found 
innocent of the crime charged, the accused may apply to the 
same court for civil damages, and the arrest is deemed invalid.

Bail as such does not exist in Finland.  Individuals charged 
with minor offenses may be released on personal recognizance at 
the court's discretion.  However, those accused of serious 
crimes must by law remain in custody pending trial, unless this 
would be unreasonable in view of the nature of the crime or the 
age of the suspect, or under other exceptional circumstances.

Supervisory personnel from the Ministry of Justice and the 
Ministry of the Interior as well as the Parliamentary Ombudsman 
and the Chancellor of Justice have authority to enter prisons 
and to order the release of prisoners held without charges.  
Exile has not been used as punishment in Finland and, by law, 
Finnish citizens cannot be exiled.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The right to fair public trial is guaranteed by law and 
respected in practice.  Finnish citizens and aliens legally 
residing in Finland have the right to effective counsel.  The 
law provides that charges must be clearly stated and that 
civilians may not be tried by military courts except in time of 

The general court system includes municipal courts, courts of 
appeal, and the Supreme Court.  The President appoints Supreme 
Court justices, who in turn appoint the lower court judges.  
Judges receive permanent appointments, but are subject to 
mandatory retirement.  They may choose optional retirement at 
age 63 but must retire at age 70.  The judiciary is not subject 
to political interference.

In addition to the general courts, a presidentially appointed 
Supreme Administrative Court adjudicates appeals from 
government decisions on administrative and tax matters.  The 
Court of Impeachment is convened to handle cases of malfeasance 
by cabinet ministers or the Chancellor of Justice.  Other 
special courts handle labor matters, water rights, and 
prisoners' rights.  Local courts may decide to conduct a trial 
behind closed doors in juvenile, matrimonial, and guardianship 
cases, or when publicity would offend morality or endanger the 
security of the state.  In national security cases, the judge 
may withhold from the public any or all information pertaining 
to charges against individuals, verdicts, and sentencing.  
Sanctions may be imposed if such information is made public.  
Provisional tribunals, or tribunals established for the express 
purpose of trying certain, specific cases or for the express 
purpose of sentencing a certain, specific individual, are 
prohibited by the Constitution.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 

The right to privacy and the sanctity of the home, including 
prohibition of eavesdropping and mail tampering, are guaranteed 
by law and respected in practice.  The police are authorized to 
conduct wiretapping under certain conditions of suspected 
criminal activity.  Senior police officials, rather than 
judges, have the authority to issue search warrants; there is 
no indication that this power is abused.  The police are 
subject by law to judicial scrutiny.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of speech and the press is provided for in the 
Constitution and respected in practice.  No instances of abuse 
or legal decisions restricting freedom of the press were 
reported.  A law remains on the books allowing the Government 
to censor films for foreign policy reasons, but has not been 
applied.  Full academic freedom exists.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of peaceful assembly and association is provided for by 
the Constitution.  Public demonstrations require prior 
notification to the police.  The Government encourages 
voluntary organizations and subsidizes private groups formed to 
achieve public purposes.  These associations are permitted to 
maintain relations with other international groups.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

Finland has two state religions:  Lutheran and Eastern 
Orthodox.  A special tax supports the state churches.  
Nonmembers may be exempted from the church tax by changing 
their census registration from the church-maintained registry 
(where most people are registered) to the civil registry.  
Other denominations and religions enjoy complete freedom of 
worship.  Proselytizing is permitted.  About 88 percent of the 
population belongs to the Lutheran Church.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

Finns are free to travel within the area of the Nordic 
countries--Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland-- 
without passports and need not apply for exit visas for travel 
to other countries.  No restrictions have been placed on 
emigration or repatriation.  The granting of political asylum 
is a matter of frequent public debate, especially because of 
increasing numbers of asylum seekers and the costs of 
resettlement.  In the first 7 months of 1993, 1,230 people 
applied for asylum, of whom 234 were granted refugee status.  
Local police issued another 1,600 permits to ex-Yugoslavs who 
had entered Finland before July 22, 1992.  (All of these 
permits were 1-year renewable residence permits issued on 
humanitarian grounds.  In practice, renewal of temporary 
permits originally granted on humanitarian grounds is virtually 
automatic.)  After that date, Finland imposed a visa 
requirement on residents of the former Yugoslavia.  The largest 
groups of asylum seekers in 1993 were from the former Soviet 
Union, the former Yugoslavia, and Kurds.  The Government of 
Finland states that it grants asylum in accordance with the 
1951 United Nations Convention and the 1967 Protocol Relating 
to the Status of Refugees.  Finnish authorities accept 
relatively small numbers of refugees and asylum seekers, who 
receive generous assistance once admitted.  Finland 
automatically gives Ingrians (ethnic Finns from Russia) 
resident status and resettlement assistance.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

Finland is a multiparty, parliamentary democracy in which all 
citizens over the age of 18 elect their representatives from 
among multiple lists of candidates representing a wide spectrum 
of political ideologies.  The country has the longest tradition 
of women's suffrage in Europe (since 1906) and there are at 
present 77 women representatives (of a total of 200) in 
Parliament and 6 female ministers (of a total of 17) in the 

Parliamentary and municipal election take place every 4 years, 
whereas presidential elections are held every 6 years.  At 
present, there are nine political parties in Parliament, of 
which four form a non-socialist coalition Government, headed by 
a Center Party Prime Minister.

Legislation passed in 1991 provides for direct presidential 
elections beginning in 1994.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Several organizations in Finland monitor human rights 
performance; they include the Finnish Red Cross, the 
government-sponsored Equality Council, the Minorities Rights 
Group, and the Women's Rights Union.  In conjunction with the 
Swedish-language University in Turku, a Human Rights Institute 
was founded in 1985 with the stated purpose of conducting human 
rights research, performing studies, and distributing 
information on human rights.  In September 1993 a Center for 
the Treatment of Torture Victims was opened in Helsinki.  
Finland is a member of the UN Human Rights Commission.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

Indigenous peoples and ethnic minorities Sami (Lapps), who 
constitute less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the population, 
benefit from legal provisions protecting minority rights and 
customs.  Sami language and culture are supported financially 
by the Government.  The Sami receive subsidies to enable them 
to continue their traditional lifestyle, which revolves around 
reindeer herding.  Sami have full political and civil rights 
and are able to participate in decisions affecting their 
economic and cultural interests.  Swedish is established as a 
second official language; about 6 percent of the population 
speaks Swedish as a native language.


Women enjoy a wide array of social benefits that provide them 
with considerable economic independence.  The government- 
established Council for Equality coordinates and sponsors 
legislation to meet the needs of women as workers, mothers, 
widows, and retirees.  In 1985 Parliament passed a 
comprehensive equal rights bill which mandates equal treatment 
for women in the workplace, including equal pay for 
"comparable" jobs.  In practice, comparable worth has not been 
implemented because of the difficulty of establishing criteria, 
but the Government, employers, unions, and others continue to 
work on implemention plans.  Women's average earnings are 80 
percent those of men and women still tend to be segregated in 
lower paying occupations.  While women have individually 
attained leadership positions in the private and public 
sectors, in general there are disproportionately fewer women in 
top management jobs.  Industry and finance, the labor movement 
and some government ministries remain male-dominated.  Women 
are not permitted to serve in the military.  Despite the large 
number of female elected officials, women feel excluded from 
the innermost circles of political power.  The Government's 
Equality Ombudsman monitors compliance with regulations against 
sexual discrimination.  Of the 114 complaints submitted to the 
Ombudsman between January 1 and September 15, 1993, 102 had 
been processed, and violation of the law was established in 29 

The law provides stringent penalties for violence against 
women; this provision is vigorously enforced by the police and 
the courts.  The Union of Shelter Homes and municipalities 
maintain about 55 shelters for female, male and child victims 
of violence in homes all over the country.  The annual number 
of calls to the police relating to domestic violence is no 
longer centrally compiled, but is estimated at some 10,000 to 
12,000 per year.  Shelter home officials estimate that the 
figure is less than half of the number of actual incidents.


Finland monitors the welfare of its children with extreme 
care.  A tight network of maternity and child welfare clinics 
provide services to pregnant women and pre-school aged children 
free of charge.

     People with Disabilities

Legislative measures protect the disabled from discrimination.  
Statutes requiring accessibility to public places were enacted 
in the 1970's, but older buildings often lack necessary 
facilities for the disabled and the new legislation is not 
retroactive.  However, the Government will provide financing 
for the voluntary retrofitting of older buildings.  Equipment 
for the disabled is not mandatory on public transportation, but 
the government subsidizes improvements undertaken.  Local 
governments maintain a transport service, which guarantees 18 
trips per month for a disabled person.  The deaf and the mute 
are provided with an interpretation service ranging from 120 to 
240 hours per year depending on the seriousness of the 
handicap.  The severely disabled are guaranteed public housing.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Trade unions are constitutionally guaranteed the right to 
organize, assemble peacefully, and strike--rights which are 
respected in practice in both the public and private sectors.  
Trade unions enjoy a protected status and play an important 
role in political and economic life.  About 85 to 87 percent of 
the work force is organized.  In Finland, employers are also 
organized into collective bargaining associations.  A 1- 
million-member blue-collar confederation, the Central 
Organization of Finnish Trade Unions (SAK), dominates the trade 
union movement.  Two other central organizations cover 
white-collar, professional, and technical employees.  All trade 
unions are democratically organized and managed and are 
independent of the government and of political parties.

The Finnish Constitution guarantees the right to strike and 
strike actions by Finnish workers were decriminalized in 1922.  
In 1970 public sector employees were granted the right to 
strike.  Strikes are restricted in certain cases, and cannot be 
called if a central incomes policy settlement (traditionally 
negotiated between union federations and central employers' 
organizations) is in effect.  Also, if more than 10 employees 
are involved in a strike, 2 weeks advance notification of the 
strike action is required.  Trade unions are free to affiliate 
with and participate in international bodies.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The right to organize and bargain collectively exists in law 
and practice and is exercised extensively.  Finland is a highly 
organized society in which over 80 percent of both workers and 
employers are members of trade unions and employers' collective 
bargaining associations.  With very few exceptions, all 
collective agreements since 1968 have been based on incomes 
policy agreements between central employees' and employers' 
organizations and the state.  The central agreement covers the 
general level of wage and salary increases, other terms of 
employment, and a "social policy package" which provides for 
vacation, holidays, sick pay, maternity and paternity leave, 
travel costs, taxes, rents, etc.  Workers are protected against 
anti-union discrimination and organization is encouraged in all 
sectors of the economy.  Employers are required to reinstate 
workers if they are fired for union activities; however, this 
has not been a issue in recent years.

Finland has no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Paragraph 6 of the Finnish Constitution prohibits forced or 
compulsory labor and is honored in practice.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

Compulsory education is legislated in Finland.  Comprehensive 
school takes 9 years, with school starting at the age of 7 
years.  It is legal to hire a 15-year old who has completed the 
mandatory course work, or who has had at least 10 years of 
schooling.  The working hours of a 15-year old may not exceed 9 
hours a day or 48 hours a week, and must fall between 8 a.m. 
and 10 p.m.  It is possible to hire a 14-year old, or a person 
in her or his fourteenth year, if employed in light work during 
school holidays for a maximum of two-thirds of the holiday 
period.  The working hours of an employee under 15 must not 
exceed 7 hours a day and 36 hours a week, and must fall between 
7 a.m. and 7 p.m.; there must be a 14-hour period without work 
every 24 hours and a 38-hour period without work every week.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

Finland has no legislated minimum wage, although all employers, 
including non-unionized employers, are required to meet the 
minimum wages agreed to in collective bargaining agreements in 
their industrial sector.  These minimums suffice to provide a 
decent standard of living for a worker and family.  In 1993 
labor and management organizations reached agreement to allow 
payment of a sub-minimal wage to young workers or the long-term 
unemployed, on a temporary basis.  This category of pay, which 
was little used in 1993, was authorized for 2 years as of June 
15, 1993.  The standard legal work week must not exceed 40 
hours.  Labor laws are enforced by the Government but the 
well-organized local union leadership also plays a key role in 
ensuring employer compliance.  The Government effectively 
enforces well-established occupational safety and health 
standards, and the unions also seek to ensure that workers' 
safety is protected.  In 1993 Finland made its regulations 
governing worker exposure to dangerous chemicals more stringent 
in conformity with European Community regulations.  These 
regulations are in the process of implementation. 

[end of document]


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