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UN human rights experts find Finland violated Sámi political rights to Sámi Parliament representation

GENEVA (4 February 2019) — Finland violated the rights of representatives to the Sámi parliament by improperly extending its pool of eligible candidates, the Human Rights Committee found in two decisions published today in Geneva.

The full decisions (one and two) are available to read on-line. 

In complaints submitted against Finland by the President of the Sámi Parliament of Finland, and by twenty-five members of the Sámi people, they claimed their right to effectively participate in public affairs was violated by the electoral roll call being extended to 97 new electors.

The complainers said the extra persons should not have been able to participate in the elections to the Sámi Parliament since the decision to include them was not in line with the law, and adversely affected the representative value of the Sámi Parliament.

“The effective enjoyment of the right to internal self-determination requires that indigenous peoples be afforded with the capacity to define group membership. Although the state may exercise powers of oversight over procedures designed to facilitate the operation of indigenous peoples’ democratic institutions, such powers should be applied carefully, on the basis of reasonable and objective criteria,” said Yuval Shany, Chair of the Human Rights Committee.

The Committee noted that the Sámi Parliament ensures an internal self-determination process, which is necessary for the continued viability and welfare of the indigenous community as a whole. As such, the electoral process to elect members of the Sámi Parliament must ensure the effective participation of those concerned in the internal self-determination process, in this case, the Sámi indigenous people, the Committee said in its decision.

The Human Rights Committee found that Finland has improperly intervened in the complainers’ rights to political participation regarding their specific rights as an indigenous people. It has requested Finland to review the Sámi Parliament Act so that the criteria for eligibility to vote in Sámi Parliament elections are defined and applied in a manner that respects the right of the Sámi people to exercise their right to internal self-determination in accordance with articles 25 (the right to participate in public life) and 27 (minority rights) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Finland ratified in 1975.

The experts requested Finland to respond within six months to the Human Rights Committee and explain how the country is implementing the Committee’s decision.

ENDS

Background 

The Human Rights Committee monitors States parties’ adherence to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which to date has 172 States parties. The Committee is made up of 18 members who are independent human rights experts drawn from around the world, who serve in their personal capacity and not as representatives of States parties.

Its Optional Protocol, which to date has 116 States parties, establishes the right of individuals to complain to the Committee against States which violated their human rights. The Optional Protocol imposes an international legal obligation on State parties to comply in good faith with the Committee’s Views. Further information on the individual complaints procedures before the Committees.

Learn more with our videos on the Treaty Body system and on the Human Rights Committee!

For media requests, please contact Julia Grønnevet in Geneva at +41 22 917 9310/jgronnevet@ohchr.org.

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