The Committee against Torture reviewed measures taken by Finland

The Committee against Torture today concluded its consideration of the eighth periodic report of Finland, with Committee Experts praising the State party’s commitment to implementing recommendations from international human rights bodies and raising questions about prison overcrowding and forthcoming amendments to the Aliens Act and Border Protection Act.

Naoko Maeda, Country Co-Rapporteur and Committee Expert, said the Committee welcomed that the State party had, in 2023, committed to reviewing and implementing recommendations from international human rights bodies, establishing a human rights database and involving civil society in policy development.

Ms. Maeda also cited reports that the number of prisoners, including remand prisoners, had increased significantly, all closed prisons were already full and the majority of prisoners were elderly. What were the causes of overcrowding? What policies encouraged greater use of alternatives to detention according to the Tokyo Rules? Had the State party taken steps to build new facilities and increase prison staff?

Bakhtiyar Tuzmukhamedov, Country Co-Rapporteur and Committee Expert, said several national and international entities had expressed grave concerns over the Aliens Act and Border Protection Act, including forthcoming amendments. Legislation reportedly continued to place asylum seekers and migrants at a high risk of being subjected to refoulement. Could the delegation address these concerns?

Introducing the report, Krista Oinonen, Director, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, and head of the delegation, said the Government would annually review the decisions, conclusions and recommendations issued to Finland by international human rights bodies and decide on measures to be taken. A new database of concluding observations adopted by the United Nations and the Council of Europe’s treaty bodies had also been launched.

The delegation said the State party was taking measures to address overcrowding in prisons. A new prison with remand facilities was being built and would be completed in 2025, allowing for more space for prisoners. New resources had been allocated to probation services. Approximately half of convicted offenders served community sentences as part of their sentences. Intensified travel bans were also imposed as an alternative to detention.

Ms. Oinonen said that in April, the Government submitted legislative proposals to tighten the asylum policy in line with the European Union Directives. The Finnish Aliens Act would be amended to introduce a new border procedure, which would enhance the examination of unfounded applications and the return of applicants whose application had been rejected, in full compliance with the principle of non-refoulement. The delegation added that the Government considered the situation that asylum seekers would face if they were returned to their home countries. The proposed amendments of the Aliens Act were still draft amendments that would be carefully examined by the Constitutional Law Committee.

In closing remarks, Claude Heller, Committee Chair, thanked the delegation for participating in the high-quality dialogue. The Committee intended to continue to engage in dialogue with Finland. It appreciated the financial and moral support provided by Finland to the Committee and the treaty bodies system, particularly in the context of the liquidity crisis faced by the United Nations.

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Oinonen said the Committee had asked many pertinent questions throughout the dialogue, which had allowed the State party to address issues in a constructive manner. The Committee’s concluding observations would be added to the State party’s database of concluding observations from international human rights bodies. Various entities would review the observations with a view to achieving their implementation.

The delegation of Finland consisted of representatives from theMinistry for Foreign Affairs; Parliament of Finland; Ministry of the Interior; Ministry of Justice; Ministry of Defence; Ministry of Social Affairs and Health; and the Permanent Mission of Finland to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

The Committee will issue concluding observations on the report of Finland at the end of its seventy-ninth session on 10 May. Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage. Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, and webcasts of the public meetings can be found here.

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