Changes to asylum procedures further restricted asylum-seekers’ rights. The European Court of Human Rights found Finland to have violated the principle of non-refoulement (which prohibits states from returning individuals to a country where there is a real risk of persecution) in the case of an Iraqi asylum-seeker. Support services for women who experienced domestic violence remained inadequate. Legislation on legal gender recognition violated transgender people’s rights.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
In November, the European Court of Human Rights held that Finland violated the European Convention on Human Rights in the case of an Iraqi asylum-seeker who was returned to Iraq in December 2017 and killed only a few weeks later. According to the court, the quality of assessment of the relevant facts, including the risk to which the asylum-seeker would be exposed upon return, was not satisfactory.
Legal changes introduced in 2016, including restrictions to free legal representation and reduced time frames for appeals, continued to place asylum-seekers at risk of human rights violations such as refoulement. Asylum-seekers’ rights were further restricted in June 2019, when amendments to the Aliens Act made it possible to execute deportation orders already while the first subsequent application was pending.
Finland continued to forcibly return asylum-seekers whose applications were rejected to Afghanistan.
The authorities continued to detain unaccompanied children, and families with children, based on their immigration status. There was no time limit on detaining families with children.
Family reunification remained difficult for most refugees due to both legislative and practical obstacles, including high income requirements.
Police and security forces
During 2019 at least three persons have been reported dead after police used force on them. Projectile electroshock devices (Tasers) were used in at least two of these cases. The Supreme Court granted a leave to appeal in a case where a police officer was found guilty of excessive use of force when using a Taser on an unarmed man in 2015.
Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI)
Legislation on legal gender recognition continued to violate the rights of transgender individuals. They could obtain legal gender recognition only if they were aged over 18, agreed to sterilization, and were diagnosed with a mental disorder.
Violence against women and girls
Three new Sexual Assault Support Centres opened in Tampere, Turku and Kuopio. However, NGOs and state institutions working to combat violence against women and girls remained systematically under-resourced and there was no nationwide, accessible service network for victims of all forms of sexual violence, to provide long-term support. Legislation on rape remained unaligned with international standards as set out in the Istanbul Convention as it did not base the definition of sexual crimes on the lack of consent. Existing legislation did not sufficiently protect children and institutionalized or hospitalized individuals from sexual violence.
Right to privacy
In June, new legislation entered into force, enabling military and civilian intelligence agencies to acquire information on alleged threats to national security through communications surveillance, without any requirement for a link to a specific criminal offence.
Conscientious objectors to military service who refused to undertake alternative civilian service continued to face punitive and discriminatory measures. At 347 days, the duration of alternative civilian service is more than double the shortest military service period of 165 days.
Economic, social and cultural rights
The level of many social security benefits, including unemployment, maternity, and sickness benefits remained below that prescribed by the European Social Charter.
Indigenous Peoples’ rights
Finland still failed to ratify International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 169, which would protect the rights of the indigenous Sámi people.