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Government speeds up ratification of convention on rights of indigenous peoples

Finland to set up human rights institute, government report analyses mistakes made with human rights issues

Government speeds up ratification of convention on rights of indigenous peoples
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The Finnish government aims to ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 169 on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as quickly as possible.
      In Finland’s case the convention has to do with the rights of the Sámi, or Lapp people, the only indigenous people within the EU.
      The ILO Convention 169 from 20 years ago recognises the indigenous peoples’ rights to their traditional living areas, and calls for measures from governments to protect the cultures, the languages, and the environment of indigenous peoples.
      Minister of Justice Tuija Brax (Green League) and the Minister for Foreign Affairs Alexander Stubb (National Coalition Party) announced on Thursday at the House of the Estates in Helsinki that the aim is to ratify the convention in the course of this Parliamentary term.
      President of the Republic Tarja Halonen suggested on Saturday - while visiting the village of Sevettijärvi in the Northern Lapland municipality of Inari - that Finland should act quickly with the ratification of the convention. Finland is the only one of the Nordic Countries that has not yet ratified the international agreement.
At the House of the Estates, Brax and Stubb introduced the 2009 report on Finland’s human rights policy to be presented to the Parliament. The government had accepted the report in its morning session.
      The previous report on the matter was drawn up in 2004. On that occasion the report focused on Finland’s international human rights policies. Thursday’s report - for the first time - also deals with Finland’s own human rights situation.
According to Stubb, Finland does not want to start teaching others how to behave in international human rights discussions, but wants to be open and forthright.
      In Brax’s view, the task of the Ministry of Justice is to ensure that things are in order at home. This will add credibility to Finland’s human rights statements on the international scene.
      The 182-page report points out that in Finland there are human rights shortcomings, for example, within the field of correctional treatment.
      Also the length of legal proceedings and police investigations has received criticism.
Since 2004 Finland has received 75 reprimands from the European Court of Human Rights. The main cause of complaint has been the length of judicial processes.
      The procedure in which the interested party can put forward a claim of slowness during the proceedings and demand getting to the ‘fast lane’ has now been introduced as an attempt to rectify the situation.
      The Ministry of Justice also aims to address the issue of violence against women. An amendment is being prepared, according to which even minor assaults against women would fall under public prosecution.
      This means that the entire history of violent episodes would be taken into account in the consideration of charges phase, Brax explained. The amendment is currently in the consultation round.
On Thursday the government decided to set up an independent human rights institute in connection with the Office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman. The institute will be funded from the parliamentary budget.

Previously in HS International Edition:
  Lapland: disputes over land and reindeer pit brother against brother (4.3.2008)

See also:
  Skolt Sámi celebrate 60th anniversary of resettlement in Sevettijärvi in Finnish Lapland

  C169 Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention, 1989
  European Court of Human Rights

Helsingin Sanomat

  4.9.2009 - TODAY
 Government speeds up ratification of convention on rights of indigenous peoples

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