Finnish Embassy occupied by peace activists in Brussels
Freedom for Finnish political prisoners!
Activists of For Mother Earth and Forum voor Vredesactie have occupied the Finnish embassy in Brussels since 2 pm this afternoon. The occupants demand immediate release of Finnish political prisoners and changes in Finnish law concerning conscientious objection to military service. A demonstration outside the embassy supports the occupation.
The Finnish political prisoners are conscientious objectors (CO's) refusing from the military service in the basis of freedom of conscience. United Nations and Council of Europe have recognised the right to CO, and it is written in different human rights declarations and resolutions. The latest resolution was adopted by the UN Commission on Human Rights on 23 April 2002. Still, the Finnish Government refuses to change their legislation, and every year a growing number of CO’s are sentenced to prison, reaching this year over sixty young men.
Since 1999 there has been 33 prisoners of conscience in Finland adopted by the human rights organisation Amnesty International. One Finnish conscientious objector, Jussi Hermaja, seeks political asylum in Belgium after being sentenced to jail for 6 ½ months because of refusing national service. The Finnish CO’s are the only prisoners in the European Union that Amnesty International has adopted as prisoners of conscience -or, political prisoners- because of the excessive length of the alternative service compared to the military service.
The Finnish state, as well as other states too, must release all prisoners of conscience immediately. Those sentenced must be given amnesty. To prevent such situations in future, the state must provide information about military service and it's different alternatives on an equal basis. The alternatives must include no service at all and non-violent service. The right to conscientious objection must be recognised universally, including crisis- or wartime, and all people must be treated equally no matter what their basis for conscientious objection is.
According to the Union of Conscientious Objectors' in Finland (UCOF), the Finnish state has not provided information about the different alternatives to military service on an equal basis. This Autumn when the activists of UCOF tried to provide the information, the police violently prevented them of doing that.
There has been no status defined in the Finnish law for conscientious objectors during crisis time. During the last crisis, World War II, conscientious objectors (CO's) were executed by Finnish army officers. Members of Jehova’s Witnesses, a religious group, are released from national service on the basis of their religious conscience. While other Finnish CO’s are imprisoned the situation is clearly unequal.
While the action at the Finnish Embassy in Brussels goes on, the Finnish Union of COs are taking non-violent direct action in Helsinki. The actions today coincide with the International Peace Prisoners Day (1st December).
Ambassade de Finlande
Prime Minister's Office
Demands of the occupants of the Finnish embassy
Occupation of the Finnish embassy continues until the political prisoners are released and public answer to the demands given
The activists of For Mother Earth International and Forum voor Vredesactie occupying the Finnish embassy in Brussels place the following demands to the ambassador of Finland and the Finnish government:
To prevent such situations in future, the Finnish state must do the following (demands 3-8).