Finland is a Member State of the Council of Europe (COE) and of the United Nations (UN), and has human rights obligations at the regional and universal levels.
Regional: European System
As a Member of the COE, Finland has ratified numerous regional treaties, including the European Convention on Human Rights, and is subject to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. Finland has ratified the Revised European Social Charter, and has authorized the European Committee of Social Rights to decide collective complaints against it. Finland is the only State to also authorize national non-governmental organizations (in addition to certain European and international organizations and employers’ organizations and trade unions) to submit complaints against it to the European Committee of Social Rights. Its human rights situation is also monitored by the COE Commissioner for Human Rights.
Individuals and groups have submitted human rights complaints against Finland to the European Court of Human Rights. For example, the Court found a violation of the right to freedom of expression in the case of a woman convicted of defamation for informing a social worker that she feared her daughter had been sexually abused. See ECtHR, M.P. v. Finland, no. 36487/12, ECHR 2016, Judgment of 15 December 2016. Additionally, the Court may grant interim measures to protect people in urgent situations of risk in Finland.
As a State party to the Revised European Social Charter, Finland must submit regular reports to the European Committee of Social Rights on its implementation of the Charter’s provisions. The Committee has also decided collective complaints against Finland. For example, it found that work involving exposure to radiation is dangerous and unhealthy, and that failure to provide additional paid holidays or reduced working hours for these workers violates the right to just conditions of work. See ECSR, STTK ry and Tehy ry v. Finland, Complaint No. 10/2000, Merits, 17 October 2001.
Finland is party to the following regional human rights treaties:
- European Convention on Human Rights and several of its protocols
- Revised European Social Charter
- COE Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence
- COE Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings
- European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
- Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities
United Nations System
As a UN Member State, Finland is subject to the oversight of various UN human rights bodies, including the Human Rights Council and its Universal Periodic Review and thematic special procedures. As a party to specific universal human rights treaties, Finland’s policies and practices are monitored by UN treaty bodies. It has accepted the complaints procedure of seven treaty bodies.
Finland has ratified the following UN human rights treaties:
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR)
- Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT)
- Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
- Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
- Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC)
- International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
Finland has submitted reservations that modify its obligations under the ICCPR.
Finland has also ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR aimed at abolishing the death penalty, and optional protocols to the CRC addressing children in armed conflict and the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography. Finland has a duty to submit State reports to the UN treaty body associated with each UN human rights treaty Finland has ratified. These reports must be submitted on a periodic basis, and describe the steps Finland has taken to implement the treaty provisions.
Finland has also ratified the relevant optional protocols or made appropriate declarations allowing individuals to submit complaints against it alleging violations of the ICCPR, ICESCR, CAT, CEDAW, CRPD, CRC, and CERD. Additionally, certain UN treaties contain inquiry procedures, which allow the UN treaty body to consider allegations of grave or systematic human rights violations. Finland has accepted the inquiry procedures of the ICESCR, CAT, CEDAW, CRPD, and CRC.
In March 2001, Finland extended a standing invitation to UN special procedures, welcoming any special procedure mandate holders to visit Finland. For instance, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of Indigenous peoples visited Finland in April 2010, and published a report on that visit in June 2011.
For more information on Finland’s engagement with UN human rights bodies, visit https://www.ohchr.org/EN/countries/ENACARegion/Pages/FIIndex.aspx.
Last updated: February 2020