Amnesty Criticism Will Be ‘No Surprise’ To Government

Asylum seeker rights, domestic violence, LGBT laws & objector punishments highlighted - but no mention of Sámi rights in new report.

File picture of hands holding sign saying "human rights" / Credit: iStock

Amnesty International criticism of Finland’s human rights record will come as no surprise to the government, the organisation’s country director tells News Now Finland.

Today, Amnesty launched their latest global human rights report covering 159 countries but Frank Johansson says the local office has an “open and straight forward” relationship with the Finnish government, and frequently raises issues about migrant rights, violence against women, and punishments for conscientious objectors.

“We might not always get a thank you note, but we have raised all these subjects regularly” says Johansson, who plans to meet with new Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen (NCP) later this month.

Finland’s Rights Failings Laid Bare

The Finland section of the new report highlights in particular changes to the asylum system that Amnesty says restricts free legal counsel for applicants, and forcibly returns people to their home countries “where they might be at risk of human rights violence”.

“Family reunification remained difficult for most refugees due to legislative and practical obstacles” notes Amnesty.

Country director Frank Johansson says that Finland is not alone in being criticised over asylum policies.

“We are probably saying this for every European country, it’s a slippery slope, a trend you see in Europe” he says.

“At this moment we do not think there is integrity in the asylum process” Johansson adds.

Domestic Violence 
The new report also highlights domestic violence against women in Finland where Johansson notes a 2014 EU study which found Finnish women experience the second highest levels of domestic violence in Europe.

“The situation for women is bad and the government knows it. And political parties say we need to do something about it. But when it comes to budgeting, they don’t give the money to address the issues” says Johansson.

Sámi Rights Issues Left Out

There is one obvious omission from the new Amnesty International report about human rights in Finland – no mention at all about Sámi issues.

Campaigners have long urged the Finnish government to sign up to international treaties about rights for indigenous people, and there are ongoing disputes about land use; reindeer herding; grazing and fishing rights; and forestry management, as well as concerns about a Government-lead reconciliation effort that many feel hasn’t been inclusive enough of Sámi people so far.

But Frank Johansson says his organisation doesn’t have the expertise or capacity to tackle Sámi human rights problems in Finland. He says they leave that instead to other groups to raise.

“We have to make choices between very limited resources at our dispoisal, and it’s regularly raised in our office that we should be looking into [Sámi issues] more […] it’s one of the glaring examples where we have not been active and feeling a bit bad about it. But at the same time there are a number of other organisations raising this issues” he tells News Now Finland.