Women were not adequately protected in law or practice against violence. Asylum-seekers were sent back to EU countries where they were less likely to be offered some form of protection than if their claim had been considered in Finland. Conscientious objectors to military service were imprisoned.
Violence against women and girls
Less than 10 per cent of rapes in Finland were reported to the police, according to Amnesty International findings, and only one in seven of those reported resulted in a conviction.
The Penal Code continues to differentiate between categories of rape according to the degree of physical violence used or threatened by the perpetrator. This fails to address the psychological harm done to survivors and protect adequately their right to sexual self-determination.
Sexual intercourse when the victim is incapable of giving genuine consent, for instance because of illness or intoxication, is categorized not as rape but as “sexual abuse”, a less serious offence. In addition, certain categories of rape and “sexual abuse” are only investigated and prosecuted if the victim so requests.
"Eighteen prisoners of conscience, all conscientious objectors to military service, were jailed..."
The government did not establish a comprehensive action plan to combat violence against women.
In September the government launched a National Action Plan for implementing UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
The strict application of the “Dublin II” EU regulations saw asylum-seekers returned to the EU member state in which they first arrived for determination of their asylum claim, even when those states were less likely to provide some form of protection than Finland. The total number of “Dublin returns” from Finland increased from 320 in 2007 to at least 430 in 2008.
Returns of asylum-seekers to Greece were halted during the second half of the year after the European Court of Human Rights and Helsinki Administrative Court expressed concern about the asylum determination procedure in Greece. Courts in Finland adopted exceptional procedures to process appeals from asylum-seekers who had travelled through Greece on their way to Finland.
At least 22 asylum-seeking children were detained, including seven who were unaccompanied.
The police continued to investigate the case of a Rwandan national suspected of crimes of genocide, who had been in pre-trial detention since his arrest in Finland in April 2007. The Rwandan government filed an extradition request in April 2008. If extradited he would be at risk of an unfair trial.
Prisoners of conscience – conscientious objectors to military service
A new law governing the length of the civilian alternative to military service came into force in January. The length of the civilian alternative remained punitive and discriminatory; it was shortened from 395 to 362 days but was still more than twice as long as the most common length of military service – 180 days.
- Eighteen prisoners of conscience, all conscientious objectors to military service, were jailed; most were serving sentences of 181 days for refusing to perform alternative civilian service.