UN’s Human Rights Committee to monitor Sámi people’s rights in expedited procedure

On 1 April 2021, the United Nations’ Human Rights Committee issued its findings and recommendations to Finland on the realisation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Committee will monitor the implementation of the recommendations on the rights of the Sámi indigenous people in an expedited procedure.

According to the Committee’s recommendation’s, Finland should speed up the process to revise the Sámi Parliament Act with a view to respecting the Sámi people’s right of self-determination, particularly as regards the definition of a Sámi and the obligation of the authorities to negotiate with the Sámi Parliament. In addition, Finland should review existing legislation, policies and practices that may have an impact on the rights and interests of the Sámi people, including development projects and extracting industries operations. Finland should ensure that meaningful consultation with the Sámi people is realised with the aim of obtaining their free, prior and informed consent.

According to the recommendations, Finland should consider ratifying the ILO  Convention No. 169 and stepping up its efforts to ensure that the government and local officials, police officers, prosecutors and judges have the appropriate training needed to respect the Sámi’s rights as an indigenous people.

Finland must submit a report on the implementation of the recommendations to the Committee by 26 March 2022.

“It is clear that Finland should implement the findings and recommendations issued by the Human Rights Committee, particularly with respect to the revision of the Sámi Parliament Act. In the revision process currently under way, the Sámi Parliament Act should be amended in accordance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” says Tuomas Aslak, President of the Sámi Parliament.

The Committee acknowledges the steps taken by Finland to promote the rights of the Sámi people, including the ongoing establishment of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Committee expresses its concern, however, that the Sámi Parliament Act – particularly with respect to the definition of the eligibility to vote and to the consultation obligation – has still not yet been amended in a way that guarantees the Sámi people’s right of self-determination. On the contrary,the decisions of 5 July 2019 by the Supreme Administrative Court and the Government’s decision not to cancel or postpone the Sámi Parliament elections appear to run counter to the Views adopted by the Committee, the Human Rights Committee finds.

In essence, the Committee thus finds in the reporting procedure that Finland has continued to violate the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights despite the decision handed down two years ago by the Committee in individual complaints. “It is unacceptable that Finland will not address human rights violations. Finland cannot fall to the level of those countries which pick and choose which human rights are implemented. Rather, human rights must be implemented in full,” Juuso continues.

The Committee is further concerned about reports according to which vague criteria are used to assess the impact of measures. This results in the authorities’ failure to engage in consultations to obtain free, prior and informed consent of the Sámi people. The Committee also notes Finland’s delay in ratifying the ILO Convention No. 169.

The Human Rights Committee is a body of independent experts, which monitors the implementation of the Covenant. Finland’s seventh periodic report was reviewed in a public virtual session on 2–4 March 2021.

The Committee’s findings and recommendations in English (PDF)

Further information:

Tuomas Aslak Juuso, President Tel. +358 (0)40 687 3394, tuomas.juuso(at)samediggi.fi