UN Committee against Torture presented its concluding observations to Finland
The United Nations Committee against Torture considered the periodic report of Finland in Geneva in May 2011.
The Committee notes with satisfaction that torture has been made a punishable offence in the Criminal Code. The Committee had previously recommended the criminalization of torture. The Committee also welcomes the establishment of a national human rights institution and the work of the Ombudsman for Minorities as the national rapporteur for trafficking in human beings.
The Committee considers overall reform of the legislation on pre-trial investigation and coercive measures, and the entering into force of the new legislation on imprisonment and the treatment of persons held in police custody, as well as the possibility of probationary liberty under supervision to be positive developments. Moreover, the Committee also lists approval of the national plan of action against trafficking in human beings and the programme on the prevention of violence against women as positive developments.
The Committee also presented some causes of concern and some recommendations. The Committee is concerned that persons deprived of their liberty are not always ensured legal safeguards from the outset of detention. According to the Committee, Finland should see to it that access to the fundamental legal safeguards is assured.
The Committee is concerned that interrogations of persons who have been arrested and detained, and the investigations of persons before trial, are not systematically taped or video recorded. It recommends that Finland grant the funds necessary for this.
With regard to asylum-seekers and aliens pending deportation, the Committee recommends that Finland guarantee a suspensive in-country right of appeal and respect for all legal safeguards pending the outcome of appeal.
In the opinion of the Committee, there are deficiencies in the legislation by virtue of which involuntary psychiatric hospitalization and treatment can be ordered in Finland. The Committee recommends that Finland revise its Mental Health Act and pass clear and specific legislation. The Committee, inter alia, recommends an independent psychiatric opinion and an expedient court review. The intention is to amend the provisions of the Mental Health Act that govern involuntary psychiatric hospitalization and treatment as part of a project now in progress at the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health.
With regard to reduction of violence against women, the Committee recommends that Finland enact legislation with a view to increasing the number of shelters for victims of violence, including victims of human trafficking.
The Committee is concerned that there is overcrowding in some prisons and detention centres, and that 222 prison cells lack appropriate sanitary facilities, for which reason the practice of “slopping out” continues to exist. The Committee urges Finland to accelerate the renovation of prisons in Mikkeli, Kuopio, Helsinki and Hämeenlinna and to install sanitary facilities as soon as possible in all premises for those deprived of their liberty.
The Committee remains concerned about the situation of remand prisoners and recommends that Finland comply with the recommendation, made in 2010 by a working group appointed by the Ministry of Justice, that would enable remand prisoners to be moved more quickly from police stations to regular prisons. In addition, the Committee recommends that Finland reduce its practice of detaining people on remand.
The Committee recommends that Finland allocate sufficient human and financial resources to the Parliamentary Ombudsman so that this office, under its mandate, can carry out visits to places of deprivation of liberty often enough. Furthermore, the Committee recommends that the Parliamentary Ombudsman ensure that prison personnel intervene in all incidents of discrimination against Roma brought to their attention.
The Committee is concerned about information indicating that asylum-seekers are detained without trial. The Committee is concerned about the number of people taken into detention, and about the frequency and length of detention. The Committee is also concerned that the Aliens Act allows for preventive detention in cases where a person can be suspected of committing a crime. The Committee recommends that Finland consider alternatives to detention.
The Committee is concerned, inter alia, about the conditions of asylum-seekers’ detention and the lack of legal safeguards regarding the length of detention. It is also concerned that people are detained not only in the Metsälä detention centre but also in police and border guard detention facilities. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned about the way in which those detained are placed in these facilities. The detention of children by virtue of the Aliens Act is also of concern to the Committee. The Committee recommends that the capacity of the Metsälä detention centre be increased or that a new detention centre be established. The Committee recommends that Finland reassess detention and its length, enact legal safeguards and adopt a complaints mechanism regarding conditions of detention.
The Committee is concerned, inter alia, about the alleged increase in ill-treatment of asylum-seekers. The Committee recommends that attention be paid to training and internal guidelines and that alleged incidents of ill-treatment be investigated.
Finland will submit its next periodic report by 3 June 2015.
Additional information: Head of Unit Arto Kosonen, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, mobile tel. +358 40 545 1264; Legislative Counsellor Ulla Mohell, Ministry of Justice, tel. +358 9 1606 7892, mobile tel. +358 50 583 9460; Ministerial Counsellor, Legal Affairs Riitta-Maija Jouttimäki, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, mobile tel. +358 50 500 3561; Chief Administrator Päivi Pietarinen, Ministry of the Interior, tel. +358 7 1878 8257