The UN Human Rights Committee Registered A Complaint by the Sámi Parliamentary Council of Finland

Sámi Parliament

Since 2012, the Sámi Parliament of Finland has been working in the Sami cultural center Sayos in the village of Inari

Photo: Samediggi

The UN Human Rights Committee has registered a complaint from the Council of the Sami Parliament of Finland alleging human rights violations regarding the decisions of the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland (SACF) on the parliamentary electoral list and the resumption of elections. The Council supported the appeal to the UN at a meeting on April 29, 2024. The UN Human Rights Committee requests Finnish governmental authorities to refrain from any reprisal measures against complainants when they are exercising their rights under the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights in nexus with a complaint lodged with the committee and until their complaint considered by the committee.

This is significant news. In light of the materials presented, the UN Human Rights Committee considers it necessary to ensure that there are no reprisals in connection with the issue of voter lists and the resumption of elections. Retaliation is a prohibited form of discrimination, and in this case, in my opinion, criminal investigation, police enforcement and criminal prosecution can be considered as such, says Pirita Näkkäläjärvi, President of the Sámi Parliament of Finland.

SACF ordered the retroactive entry of 65 people on the electoral list of the Sami Parliament for 2023, contrary to the decisions of the parliamentary bodies, and the resumption of parliamentary elections to be held from 3 June to 1 July 2024. Sami parliamentarians say that the latest decisions of the SACF violate the right of the Sami to self-determination as an indigenous people, and are also contrary to national law, since Finnish law gave the Court the opportunity to intervene in the affairs of the Sami, although the deadline for making decisions had already expired last fall, when the election campaign ended.

The persistent violations of human rights treaties in Finland related to the Sami Parliament electoral list pose a serious challenge. They place an undue burden on the Sami community. We are grateful to the UN for giving us another small glimmer of light. However, while we await the next steps, we are happy to proceed with the resumption of the elections as usual, says Chairman Näkkäläjärvi.

In 2019 and 2022, Finland got three decisions from UN human rights treaty monitoring bodies regarding elections to the Sámi Parliament. Then the UN Human Rights Committee and the Committee against Racial Discrimination obliged Finland to revise the Sami District Act and respect the Sami's right to self-determination. The process of legislative reform has begun, but is not completed. In December 2023, the government of Prime Minister Petteri Orpo unanimously submitted a new Sámi District bill to parliament. Consideration of the Sámi Parliament bill is expected to continue after resumed elections are held in autumn 2024.

UN Special Rapporteur Fabian Salvioli, who visited Finland in March 2024, was concerned about the news that police were investigating whether members of the Sami Parliament election commission had committed a crime in applying the Sami Parliament Act in accordance with international human rights standards. In May, police announced that in addition to members of the election commission, members of the Sámi Assembly Council for 2020–2023 were also suspected of the crime. In a March statement, Salvioli said he was deeply concerned that criminal charges could be used as a form of retaliation against the indigenous Sami people for exercising their right to self-determination in determining their identity and representation.

The current members of the Council of the Sami Parliament are Pirita Näkkäläjärvi (Chairman), Leo Aikio (I Deputy Chairman), Tuomas Aslak Juuso (II Deputy Chairman), Karen-Anni Hetta, Tauno Letoff, Asko Lensman and Inka Musta. The council represents all three Sami languages, the Sami living in Finland (Inari Sami (Inari), Kolta Sami (East Sami) and Northern Sami (Northern Sami, Northern Sami)), all communes of the Sami region and the territories outside of it.

Source: Samediggi