International peace prisoners' day 1st December -focus on Finland
1st December marks the international Prisoners for Peace Day, launched in 1956 by the War Resisters International. The focus of Prisoners for Peace Day 2004 is the imprisonment of conscientious objectors in Finland.
Please support the Finnish peace prisoners by organising an action at your local Finnish Embassy on the 1st December. So far there are already actions planned in Belgium, Ireland and Finland. Below you more information about the situation in Finland, and ideas on what you could do on the 1st December to help putting pressure on the Finnish government to respect human rights and stop imprisoning conscientious objectors.
Conscientious objection in Finland
Finland still practices a very extensive military conscription, and continues to imprison conscientious objectors (COs) who refuse to participate in the system. The number of COs who face a prison sentence up to 197 days due to their refusal to take part in the punitive and discriminative alternative service system is growing every year - now standing at about 70-80 annually.
Young men have a choice between military and alternative service, but there are many problems with the system. The length of the alternative service (13 months) is clearly punitive compared to the military service (6 months), the conscripts mostly do not receive information about alternative service during the call-up, and the alternative service places often ignore their economic obligations towards the servant.
Also, in Finnish law there is no status for COs during crisis time. This means that people who never received military training might be obliged to serve in the army during a war.
Finland also practises discrimination on the bases of (non-)religious conviction: members of Jehova’s Witnesses, a religious group, are automaticly released from national service due to their religious conscience, while COs of other beliefs or ethical ideals are sentenced to prison.
Take action on 1st December!
Please show your support to the imprisoned Finnish COs by organising an action on the international Prisoners for Peace Day. Here are some ideas of what you could do:
You can find the contact details of the Finnish Embassy in your region on the website: www.formin.fi/english (click on "Embassies", and then "Finnish missions").
Materials such as a model letter to the embassador, petition text, leaflet, contact details of Finnish press are available though our office firstname.lastname@example.org.
Whatever you decide to do, please inform us at For Mother Earth email@example.com and War Resisters International firstname.lastname@example.org, so that your activities can be reported on our website and in the international press release which will be sent out on 1st December.
More information about the situation of Finnish COs and the Prisoners for