The UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights ratified by Finland, published on 1 February 2019 two views on the communications submitted to it concerning decisions made by the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland on the Sámi Parliament’s election in 2015. One of the claims was submitted by President of the Sámi Parliament Tiina Sanila-Aikio, as authorized by its Executive Board.
The case dealt with the matter of admitting persons into the electoral roll of the Sámi Parliament pursuant to decisions made by the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland (KHO) on 30 September 2015.
Sanila-Aikio considers the Committee’s view a good one. “Of course, it means that the UN Human Rights Committee confirms, through its authority, what we have been saying all the time. The Supreme Administrative Court should not have departed from the formulation of the Sámi Parliament Act and replaced the Sámi people’s right to self-determination by its own ‘overall consideration’, ignoring the thorough work done by the Sámi Parliament’s Election Committee on the individual assessment of each application. We now need to discuss whether to submit an annulment application to the Supreme Administrative Court in order to restore a lawful state as regards the issue.”
In its view, the Human Rights Committee finds that the decisions made by the Supreme Administrative Court through which 93 persons were entered in the Sámi Parliament’s electoral roll against the stand of the Sámi Parliament’s Election Committee and Executive Board violated article 25 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights both alone and in conjunction with article 27 as interpreted in light of article 1. Of these articles, article 25 deals with the right of individuals to political participation, article 27 with the rights of minorities, and article 1 with the right of peoples to self-determination.
The Human Rights Committee finds that, ever since 2011, the Finnish Supreme Administrative Court has departed from both the formulation of the Sámi Parliament Act’s section 3 and the consensual interpretation of the section by applying its own “overall consideration” instead of the objective criteria required by the Act. The individual assessment of whom to enter in the electoral roll undertaken by the Sámi Parliament’s Election Committee had specifically been based on the criteria provided by law, leading to the decision of not including 93 persons in the roll.
Through its view, the Human Rights Committee has supported the view of the Sámi Parliament’s Election Committee and Executive Board, finding that the interpretation of the Supreme Administrative Court departed from the Act and was not based on reasonable and objective criteria.
In accordance with article 2(3) of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a State party is under an obligation to provide effective remedy for human rights violations when they have been found to have occurred. In its decision, the Committee finds that this entails “ensuring full reparation”. This may require that the Supreme Administrative Court annul its own decisions. The Human Rights Committee separately states that Finland is obliged to review section 3 of the Sámi Parliament Act with a view to ensuring that the criteria for eligibility to vote in the Sámi Parliament’s elections are defined and applied in practice in a manner that respects the right of the Sámi people to exercise their internal self-determination. Finland is also under an obligation to take all steps necessary to prevent similar violations in the future.
The decision of the Human Rights Committee also includes a complementary opinion by one of the members, which comes to the same conclusion as the entire Committee but contains additional grounds.
Finland must, within six months, report to the Committee on the measures taken to give effect to the Committee’s views.
The decision is available on the website of the Human Rights Committee at: https://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CCPR/Shared%20Documents/FIN/CCPR_C_124_D_2668_2015_28169_E.pdf
The news release of 1 Feb. 2019 of the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs (in Finnish): https://um.fi/ajankohtaista/-/asset_publisher/gc654PySnjTX/content/yk-n-ihmisoikeuskomitealta-kaksi-ratkaisua-saamelaiskarajien-vaaliluetteloon-hyvaksymista-koskevassa-asiassa?p_p_auth=cifAZqe8&curAsset=0&stId=44227
Tiina Sanila-Aikio, President of Sámi Parliament in Finland, tel. +358 50 300 1780, tiina.sanila-aikio(at)samediggi.fi