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Application of Legislation, Criminal Cases, Court Rulings

Application of Legislation, Criminal Cases, Court Rulings

In general, Finland observes anti-racism and anti-discrimination legislation. For this purpose, the relevant infrastructure is provided in the executive branch. Article 4 of the Equality Act says that “the government shall promote equality in all its activities, purposefully, with the use of administrative and operational practices to ensure the promotion of equality in planning and decision making.”

Efforts to comply with equality and to fight against xenophobia are coordinated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The main legal body fighting for the improvement of the rights of minorities is the Ombudsman for Minorities at the Ministry of Internal Affairs. His tasks involve coordinating with other authorities to ensure equal rights, regardless of the minority’s ethnic background. Ombudsman for Minorities can be contacted if, for example, a person is personally faced ethnic discrimination or has witnessed an act of discrimination. There are three regional offices advising victims of discrimination - in Turku, Tampere and Kotka. However, Ombudsman for Minorities lacks the human and financial resources necessary for proper performance of his tasks. His office has no regional departments and he can only consider cases of discrimination based on ethnic background.

The Ombudsman monitors and facilitates the implementation of the rights and improves the position of ethnic minorities and foreign nationals in the society. He meets regularly with various organizations and groups representing ethnic minorities. In addition, he participates in the development of the societies of ethnic groups. It is characteristic that in Åland the only official language is Swedish. The islands have their own citizenship and its parliament that does not answer to the Parliament of Finland. The scope of the autonomy: education, culture, protection of monuments, health and medical care, environmental protection, internal transport, local government, the postal service, radio and telecommunications.

Countering discrimination is handled by the Commissioner for Equality Affairs. He can provide support during legal proceedings concerning compensation for damages or help obtain compensation. In such situations, however, the issue has to significant in terms of the application of the Equality Act.

Commissioner for Equality Affairs has the right to inspect workplaces, if there is reason to suspect a violation of the Equality Act by the employer. Other authorities are obliged, if necessary, to assist in conducting the inspection.

Discrimination at the workplace is handled by labour protection institutions. Finland lacks a cohesive programme to combat discrimination of minorities (except Roma).

As was already mentioned, children who speak Sami as a first language and who live in regions inhabited by the Sami people have the right to receive education in their native language. However, Sami activists have complained about the lack of Sami teachers and lack of awareness about the Sami people in Finnish schools.

According to Article 13-14 of the Equality Act Finland has the National Discrimination Tribunal of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Tribunal hears cases of discrimination and may decide to restore those fired at work and on payment of compensation, or can also impose a fine. The statute of limitations for such cases is two years. In this case, outside the jurisdiction of the tribunal are cases of discrimination in the labour market and issues related to immigration.

An Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations (ETNO) also operates under the Ministry. It is an advisory body, which considers questions relating to refugees, migrants, racism and ethnic relations. Regional councils of the Advisory Council on International Relations suffer from a lack of human and financial resources, which prevents them to effectively carry out their tasks.

Under the auspices of the Ministry of Health and Social Policy the Advisory Council for Roma is active, 50% of which are Roma. The Board is responsible for monitoring the situation of the Roma, to inform the authorities about this, as well as measures to combat discrimination. The council members are working on a voluntary basis. Discrimination at school is handled by school curators and school staff themselves. However, in matters of juvenile justice there is a clear violation of the Constitution.

Article 6 of the Basic Law provides that children “should have the right to influence the issues that concern them in accordance with their level of development.” However, this provision is often not complied with.

In 2007, Finland launched a National Anti-Discrimination Action Programme (known as the “Yes” programme). The project involves the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Labor, Ministry of Education and Culture, the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and a number of NGOs. The project objectives are to raise public awareness and capacity in relation to equal treatment and non-discrimination and the promotion of diversity in the Finnish society. The project is also supported by the European Commission.

On November 1, 2012, Finland launched the Good Relations project. Its aim is to combat racism and xenophobia through the establishment of good relations between people from different walks of life. The project also aims to provide a definition of “good inter-ethnic relations”, the creation of a set of indicators for a good relationship, to try them and to provide information and their results at the national level and at EU level. The project is coordinated by the Minister of Internal Affairs. The project’s partners are also the Advisory Board for Ethnic Relations and the Center for Economic Development, Transport and the Environment Uusimaa, Pirkanmaa and South-Western Finland. In addition, the project is working with the Ministry of Employment and the Economy, the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities; an organization representing the interests of the Sami and Roma. International partners involved in the project are the Swedish Ministry of Employment and the Council for Ethnic Minorities of Northern Ireland.

Finland celebrates Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27th. In Finnish the event is called “Day of Remembrance for the victims of persecution” and in Swedish and English versions the term “Holocaust” is used. However, representatives of the Jewish community have complained that the Holocaust is mentioned in passing, and it is understandable only if the teacher explains it in detail.

In March 2010, the police launched an online service to collect information on hate crimes. The Migration Department under the Ministry of the Interior has established a mechanism for monitoring information on the integration of migrants and ethnic relations. However, there is an obstacle to the full collection of information in a ban on the collection of data on the basis of criteria such as religion, language or ethnic origin.

In 2013, Finnish government launched a Russian language and culture foundation. Finland also celebrates the Day of Swedish Culture on November 6. A variety of events dedicated to the Swedish culture and the Swedish language are held in the municipalities of the country.

On June 14, 2012, Jussi Halla-Aho, a member of The Finns Party, received a court-ordered fine from The Supreme Court of Finland for an entry he had published in his blog in 2008, wherein he compared Islam and paedophilia. He was also fined for insinuating that the number Somalian citizen, who happen to the largest migrant group in Finland, is responsible for the rapid increase in theft rates. Consequently on June 15 he was forced to resign due to the offensive remarks he made towards Muslims and immigrant in general.

On June 19, the Supreme Court of Finland denied James Hirvisaari’s appeal regarding Kouvola Court decision. In end of the previous year, the member of The Finns Party was fined for hate speech in his blog. It was announced on September 11 that the junior officer of the Kainuu Brigade suffered severe reprimands for his remarks about homosexuals.

On December 12, Tommi Rautio, ex-representative of The Finns Party in the Koylio city council, was fined for incitement of ethnic hatred and as a result, he was ordered to pay 20 daily penalties worth 120 EUR in total.

On May 14, 2013, municipal deputy from the party “True Finns” Mika Hiltunen was sentenced by a Finnish court to a fine of 2 000 Euros for inciting ethnic hatred.

On October 22, a businessman and owner of a chain of supermarkets Juha Karkkaynen was fined 45 000 euros for publishing anti-Semitic articles in the free newspaper Magneetti, which had been circulated in the mall he owned. The court also ordered him to remove the articles from the website of the journal. The leadership of the newspaper in early August announced the decision to concentrate editorial policy on commercial topics.

High-profile case emerged in January 2014, involving incitement of interethnic hatred, when a right wing extremist activist from Tampere, Anu Palosaari was sentenced to a fine of 510 euros for blasphemy (article of the Finnish criminal law “violation of religious peace”). Palosaari wrote several blog posts where she threatened to shoot Muslims and insulted Muslim leaders.

In mid-October, court sentenced the chief editor of Magneettimedia newspaper to a fine of 90 units (out of 100) for publishing anti-Semitic materials in the newspaper. Furthermore, the newspaper will pay a fine of 45 000 euros.

Unfortunately, we can talk about the facts of apparent connivance of xenophobia on the part of law enforcement. At the beginning of January it became known that the Prosecutor General of Finland refused to open a criminal case against a member of parliament from the ruling party P. Salolainen, “famous” for statements about the Jewish community “controlling finance and the media in the United States”. The prosecutor's office found that since the words of Mr. Salolainen did contain threats or inflammatory statements, they do not incite ethnic strife.

Since 2017, Finland has been regularly reporting to OSCE/ODIHR the number of investigations and convictions in cases of discrimination . So, if in 2017 63 cases were investigated and 37 sentences were pronounced, then in 2018 this ratio was 55/21, in 2019 - 22/17, and in 2020 - 48/42. A general progressive trend is emerging towards an increase in the number of crimes that are qualified by the court as hate crimes: if in 2013 there were only 24 of them, then in 2018 - 55.

p>In May 2020, the Pirkanmaa District Court convicted and fined the former leader of the Finnish People's Party, primarily Marco de Wit, for libel, aggravated libel and ethnic agitation. During the 2019 campaign, de Wit published and distributed campaign ads claiming that all Muslims are sex offenders and posted online articles threatening Jews, refugees and asylum seekers. He was also found guilty of aggravated defamation for accusing police of sexualizing children after some officers took part in an LGBTQI+ Helsinki event in military uniform. De Wit was previously sentenced to parole for assaulting an official.

It is important that Finnish law enforcement agencies react harshly to any manifestations of hatred, incl. on social networks, as well as on the activities of neo-Nazi parties and organizations. For example, in September 2020, the Supreme Court issued a final verdict and banned Nordic Resistance Movement (Finnish abbreviation PVL), a neo-Nazi group engaged in hate speech and violence against foreigners and Jews in Finland.

Active work is also underway to combat police profiling. In July 2020, public broadcaster Yle reported that the Helsinki Police Department fired two officers, including a chief of staff, for engaging in racist communications with far-right hate groups. The text messages spoke of a coming "civil war", with the language specifically targeting the country's Muslim, Somali and Romani populations. The report indicated that five more police officers and one security guard associated with far-right groups were under investigation.

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