Head of state
Tarja Halonen
Head of government
Jyrki Katainen (replaced Mari Kiviniemi in June)
Death penalty
abolitionist for all crimes
5.4 million
Life expectancy
80 years
Under-5 mortality
3.2 per 1,000

New information emerged concerning Finland’s possible involvement in the US-led rendition and secret detention programmes. Asylum-seekers in accelerated determination procedures were subjected to unfair treatment and many were detained in unsuitable facilities. Services for women and girls who had been subjected to violence remained inadequate.

Refugees, migrants and asylum-seekers

Accelerated asylum determination procedures under the Aliens Act continued to provide inadequate protection for asylum-seekers, including by not requiring an in-country suspensive right of appeal.

In January, Finland stopped returning asylum-seekers to Greece under the Dublin II Regulation, following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights which found that Greece did not operate an effective asylum system (see Greece entry).

However, forced returns to Baghdad, Iraq, resumed despite the real risk of persecution or other forms of serious harm people could face upon their return.

The Finnish authorities were unable to provide comprehensive and reliable statistics on the numbers of irregular migrants and asylum-seekers detained during the year. However, there were concerns that many of those being detained were held in police detention facilities, contrary to international standards. In these cases, many were detained in mixed-sex facilities, together with individuals suspected of crime. Children seeking asylum, including unaccompanied children, were also detained.

In June, the UN Committee against Torture expressed its concern over relevant sections of the Aliens Act, which allow for preventive detention if an alien is suspected of committing a crime.

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Violence against women and girls

Services for victims of violence remained inadequate. This was partly due to the ongoing absence of legislation requiring municipalities to provide support to victims. As a result, with only two centres providing support to rape victims, and the absence of any self-referral centres, victims’ needs across the country could not be met.

In addition, because shelters for victims of domestic violence were funded by child protection services, they provided shelter mainly to women with children, and did not accept women suffering from mental illness. This placed many vulnerable people at risk of further violence.

Concerns were raised about the adequacy of the proposed €14 million budget for the National Action Plan to prevent violence against women, which was agreed in 2010. Civil society organizations argued that this would be insufficient to ensure full and effective implementation of the Plan.

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Counter-terror and security

New information emerged regarding a number of aircraft linked to the US-led rendition and secret detention programmes, which landed in Finland between 2001 and 2006. One aircraft was photographed at Helsinki-Vantaa airport on 20 September 2004, the same day it was reported to have landed in Lithuania. The Lithuanian government acknowledged that two CIA secret sites had been established in the country between 2002 and 2004. Finland had previously been linked to three rendition flights and to “dummy flight plans”.

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International justice

In September, appeal proceedings began in the Helsinki Court of Appeal in the case of François Bazaramba, who had been convicted for crimes of genocide committed in Rwanda in 1994. Some of the hearings were conducted in Rwanda and Tanzania to facilitate the hearing of witness testimony and allow the judges to visit locations relevant to the case.

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Prisoners of conscience

Conscientious objectors to military service continued to be imprisoned for refusing the alternative civilian service, which remained punitive and discriminatory in length. The duration of alternative civilian service remained at 362 days, more than double the shortest military service period of 180 days.

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