University of Minnesota

Committee Against Torture, Consideration of reports submitted by States Parties under article 19 of the Convention, Finland, U.N. Doc. CAT/C/67/Add.1 (2003).




Fourth periodic reports of States parties due in 2002



[30 October 2002]

* The initial report submitted by the Government of Finland is contained in document CAT/C/9/Add.4; for its consideration by the Committee, see document CAT/C/SR.65 and 66, and Official Records of the General Assembly, Forty-sixth session, Supplement No. 44 (A/46/44), paragraphs 182-208. The second periodic report is contained in document CAT/C/25/Add.7; for its consideration, see documents CAT/C/SR.249 and 250 and Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifty-first session, Supplement No. 44 (A/51/44), paragraphs 120-137. The third periodic report is contained in document CAT/C/44/Add.6; for its consideration, see documents CAT/C/SR.397, 400 and 402 and Official Records of the General Assembly, Fifty‑fifth session, Supplement No. 44 (A/55/44), paragraphs 51-55.

The information submitted by Finland in accordance with the consolidated guidelines for the initial part of the reports of States parties is contained in HRI/CORE/1/Add.59/Rev.2 (29 June 1998).


This is the fourth periodic report submitted by Finland to the United Nations Committee against Torture on the implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The third periodic report was submitted in the autumn of 1998 (CAT/C/44/Add.6).

In accordance with the new guidelines for the submission of reports (CAT/C/14/Rev.1) adopted by the Committee against Torture on 18 May 1998, the report is presented in three parts. Part I explains the most important legislative and organizational reforms, supervision by the authorities as well as practical measures taken in the fields covered by the Convention on the basis of individual complaints.

During the consideration of the third report on 11 and 12 November 1999, hardly any information was found that would need to be supplemented in Part II of this report. The Government wishes to draw attention to Part III in which account is given of the measures taken to implement the conclusions and recommendations adopted by the Committee on the third periodic report (A/55/44, paras. 51-55).

This report was prepared by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in cooperation with various ministries and other authorities. In addition, for the preparation of the report, some non‑governmental organizations and advisory boards were requested to present their views on issues which, in their opinion, should be addressed in the report. Furthermore, in September 2002, representatives of the relevant authorities, non-governmental organizations and advisory boards were invited to attend a public hearing for the purpose of presenting their views on the draft report.

Measures to combat ethnic discrimination and to promote tolerance as well as the Finnish legislation on aliens have been discussed in detail in the sixteenth periodic report of Finland on the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, submitted to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in November 2001 (CERD/C/409/Add.2, 11 April 2002).


A. Article 2

1. Prison administration

(a) Number of prisoners

The number of prisoners continued to decrease in Finland until 2000 when it began to increase again. In 2001, the number of prisoners was 10 per cent higher than in 2000, rising to 3,135. Almost all categories of prisoners increased in number, in particular persons in pre‑trial detention and foreign prisoners. The number of persons convicted of narcotics offences increased by 20 per cent and the number of young prisoners by 25 per cent. On 1 October 2002,
there were 3,256 prisoners in total in Finland. Despite the recent increase, the proportional number of prisoners (60/100,000 inhabitants) is still small in Finland when compared, for example, with other European States.

(b) Legislative reforms

The new Constitution of Finland (731/1999), in which the provisions on fundamental rights amended in 1995 were maintained as such, entered into force on 1 March 2000. Section 7 of the Constitution prohibits torture and other treatment violating human dignity. Furthermore, the Constitution provides protection against the deportation, extradition or return of an alien if in consequence he or she is in danger of a death sentence, torture or other treatment violating human dignity (section 9, subsection 4).

The provisions of law applicable to the enforcement of sentences and detention (Act on the Enforcement of Sentences, 580/2001 and Detention Act, 615/1974) have been amended. The amendments entered into force on 1 June 1999. The purpose of the amendments was to provide more effective means to prevent the abuse of narcotics and intoxicants and to reduce crime in prisons. A further objective of the amendments was to enhance the reintegration of released prisoners into society, by placing them temporarily outside the prison, and by providing treatment for intoxicant abusers or other therapy to improve the prisoner’s social skills. The prevention of crime in prisons also contributes to the safety of prisoners, their families and prison staff.

The right of prisoners to appeal was strengthened by the amendments to the provisions in Chapter 7 of the Act on the Enforcement of Sentences (580/2001), which entered into force on 1 August 2001. Under the new provisions, a prisoner may appeal to a district court against a decision on disciplinary measures or suspension of release on parole. Although appeal is, under the provisions of this Act, only possible in these two cases, the right of appeal is in practice stronger, as a prisoner may lodge an appeal directly under the provisions of the Constitution. According to section 21 of the Constitution,

“Everyone has the right to have his or her case dealt with appropriately and without undue delay by a legally competent court of law or other authority, as well as to have a decision pertaining to his or her rights or obligations reviewed by a court of law or other independent organ for the administration of justice.”

The reform of the constitutional provisions on fundamental rights carried out in 1995 and the entry into force of the new Constitution have also in other respects strengthened the rights of persons deprived of their liberty.

(c) Overall reform of the provisions on the enforcement of sentences and detention

On 23 September 1999, the Government set up a committee to prepare a further reform of the law on the enforcement of prison sentences and detention. The committee submitted its report (KM 2001:6), written in the form of a Government bill, in June 2001; the report contained proposals for a new Act on Imprisonment and a new Act on Detention, as well as for new provisions concerning release on parole, to be included in the Penal Code. A large number of authorities were requested to comment on the report.

It is proposed in the report that the objectives of imprisonment be more clearly set out in the law, underlining the objective of preventing repeated commission of offences and of promoting the released prisoner’s ability to get hold of life and reintegrate into society. All prisoners would be provided with an individual plan, on which the terms and conditions of imprisonment, activities during imprisonment, transfers, permission to leave the prison premises and the possibility for release on parole would be based. The plan would help enforce the prison sentence in accordance with individual needs, on the basis of the information obtained in respect of the prisoner in question. By complying with the terms and conditions set out in the plan, the prisoner would achieve certain benefits, including transfer to an open ward, permission to leave the prison premises, earlier release on parole (under supervision) and placement in an institution other than the prison. The plan would also provide for a schedule for the prisoner’s release which would be prepared in cooperation with other relevant authorities and bodies.

Should the committee’s proposal be accepted, the prisoners’ right of appeal would be further strengthened. It is proposed in the committee report that prisoners be given the right to appeal against most decisions concerning their rights and obligations.

The committee also proposes that prisoners under the age of 18 years be held in a ward separate from adults. A derogation from this obligation would only be possible if it was in the best interests of the child.

The Committee against Torture recommended, having considered the third periodic report of Finland (CAT/C/44/Add.6), that the law governing isolation in pre-trial detention places be changed by establishing judicial supervision for the determination of the isolation, its duration and its maximum period (A/55/44, chap. IV, C, para. 55). It is proposed that a maximum period of time for pre-trial detention in police establishments be laid down in the law. A court would decide on the place of detention of persons held in pre-trial detention, as well as on any restrictions on the right of communication of the detained person with others during pre‑trial investigation, consideration of the need for prosecution and trial. The restrictions, together with the decision on detention, would have to be reviewed at regular intervals provided in the law.

The committee also proposes that the provisions on release on parole be amended, with the exception of those concerning the main rules. A prisoner would have a possibility for release on parole after he or she has served two thirds of his or her sentence. Prisoners who have been convicted for the first time would have a possibility for release on parole after they have served half of their sentences. The proposal entails a new system of release on parole under supervision which would help reintegrate prisoners into society. It would be possible to release the prisoner on parole under supervision when he or she has no more than six months left of his or her prison sentence.

Under the existing provisions of law, it is only possible to release prisoners serving a life sentence on parole upon a pardon by the President of the Republic. Should the proposal of the committee be accepted, it would be possible to release on parole even prisoners who are serving a life sentence. Under the main rule, release could be considered where the prisoner serving a life sentence has served at least 12 years of his or her sentence. The decision would be made by a court. In cases where it is not possible to release the prisoner, because of the serious nature of
the offence he or she has committed or because of a danger that the released prisoner could pose to the public, the court would nevertheless review the possibility for release on parole every two years. The purpose of this proposal is to increase foreseeability and to reduce the suffering caused by uncertainty as to the date of release. However, as the provisions on pardon are not planned to be amended, the possibility of pardon by the President of the Republic would coexist with the new system of parole under supervision.

Having considered the second periodic report of Finland (CAT/C/25/Add.7), the Committee against Torture expressed its concern over that, although the abolition of preventive detention for dangerous recidivists had been applied in practice, there was no information on initiatives taken by the Finnish authorities to modify the relevant provisions in the Dangerous Recidivists Act, and recommended that the procedure for the abolition of preventive detention be completed (HR/CAT/96/09, para. 9). The committee suggests that the Act on the Preventive Confinement of Dangerous Recidivists be repealed and the Prison Court, which currently decides on the placement of such prisoners, be abolished. According to the proposal, the competent court of law could, when imposing the sentence, order that a person who is convicted of an offence against the life or personal security of another, and is sentenced to imprisonment for more than four years, shall serve the prison sentence in its entirety. However, even in such a case the prisoner could be released on parole after he or she has served two thirds of the sentence if he or she is no longer found to be a threat to the life or personal integrity of another. In the latter case, the decision on release would be made by a court of appeal. If the prisoner was not released on parole, he could still have a possibility for probation under supervision when he or she has no more than six months left of the sentence.

The Government intends to submit the relevant bills to Parliament in the spring of 2003. Upon their entry into force, the new Acts will contribute to a strengthened protection of the rights of prisoners and detainees.

The Ministry of the Interior is currently preparing a bill on the treatment of detained persons, which would compile the provisions which are now included in different acts, and at the same time clarify the provisions concerning the treatment of drunken persons and other persons held in police establishments. The new Act is scheduled to enter into force at the beginning of 2004.

(d) Other reforms and changes

At present, some 63 per cent of prisoners participate in various activities in prisons. Approximately 44 per cent of them carried out work, 11 per cent studied and 7 per cent participated in rehabilitative activities in 2001. The number of programmes designed to increase the capability of prisoners to participate in various activities and to prevent repeated commission of offences, as well as to provide rehabilitation for intoxicant abusers, have significantly increased in the past few years.

All Finnish prisons regularly assess the life situation of each prisoner, possible problems with intoxicants, the existence of any security risks and the prisoner’s capability to work. Since the beginning of 2001, for the purpose of determining whether there exist any risks of repeated commission of offences and whether there is need for rehabilitation, all prisons have also
assessed the factors that have contributed to the prisoners’ criminal way of life, their social and financial background, the existence of problems with intoxicants, and their social and cooperative skills.

Campaigns against intoxicant abuse in prisons are based on a plan adopted in 1999: the prison administration’s objective is to reduce the availability of intoxicants and prevent drug‑related crime, to reduce the demand for intoxicants, to prevent the negative effects of the use of intoxicants and to ensure the rehabilitation of prisoners abusing intoxicants, in cooperation with the authorities of the prisoner’s municipality of residence. In 2001, a second part of the plan, a handbook of control on intoxicant abuse, was published: it provides guidance for the prison staff in respect of the exercise of control on intoxicant abuse in prisons.

Some 80 per cent of prisoners have problems with intoxicants; the rehabilitation of intoxicant abusers and the control on the use of intoxicants have therefore been increased and intensified in the past few years. The measures taken are based on the 1999 plan. In 2001, in particular, campaigns against intoxicant abuse in prisons were strongly increased. This was possible due to additional funds allocated for the purpose in the State budget and by a government decision. In 2001, 2,189 prisoners participated in rehabilitation programmes, i.e. four times the number in 2000. Rehabilitation was usually provided in the form of informative and motivating sessions (lasting two to four hours). Twenty prisons also provided specific rehabilitation programmes. For the purpose of intensifying the prevention of intoxicant abuse, 48 permanent positions of special instructors, nurses, therapists, social workers, instructors and guards were established in the country. The increase in the number of tests aiming at revealing intoxicant abuse, shown in the statistics, is largely due to their increase in open prisons in which prisoners are only admitted if they commit themselves to refrain from the use of intoxicants.

In the Kuopio prison, a specific programme (STOP) is meant for persons convicted of sexual offences: its purpose is to reduce the risk of repeated offences, by means of guiding the offender to take responsibility for his or her conduct, get motivated to change and learn ways to control it. The programme consists of 200 hours of rehabilitation extending over a six-month period.

For prisoners convicted of offences involving the use of violence, there is a Cognitive Self-Change Course, the purpose of which is to guide prisoners in controlling their violent behaviour, thus reducing the risk of repeated commission of offences.

On 19 December 2000, the Ministry of Justice and the State Real Property Agency concluded a contract for the renovation of prison premises, to be completed in 2001-2010. This should significantly improve the quality and general condition of the places of detention and thus the conditions of prisoners and remand prisoners. A significant improvement was already made
on 1 May 2002 when the remand prison in Helsinki was closed down and the prisoners were transferred to a new one in Vantaa. The renovation of the Vaasa prison (in 2000) and the ongoing renovations of the Helsinki and Riihimäki prisons have already contributed and will further contribute to better conditions in prisons. Furthermore, the Turku prison and remand prison will be closed down and replaced with a new one to be completed by 2005.

In December 1998, the mission statement and the short-term policies of the Prison and Probation Services in Finland were adopted by the Ministry of Justice and the then Probation Association: they define the duties, objectives, values and principles of the Services, and the means to be employed to achieve their objectives.

2. Minority Ombudsman

The Minority Ombudsman Act (660/2001) entered into force on 1 September 2001 when a new office of the Minority Ombudsman was established, replacing the earlier office of the Ombudsman for Aliens. The Minority Ombudsman has a wider range of duties, including the promotion of good ethnic relations, the status and rights of aliens and persons belonging to a minority, and the monitoring of respect for ethnic equality and for the principle of non‑discrimination. The Minority Ombudsman also has certain other duties laid down in the Aliens Act, such as the provision of opinions on asylum applications and decisions on deportation. The office of the Minority Ombudsman is subordinate to the Ministry of Labour.

3. Act on the Integration of Immigrants and Reception of Asylum-Seekers

The Act on the Integration of Immigrants and Reception of Asylum-Seekers (439/1999, hereinafter referred to as “the Integration Act”) entered into force on 1 May 2001 ( its objectives are to enhance the integration, equality and freedom of choice of immigrants with the help of measures supporting the achievement of the most important knowledge and skills needed in society, and to ensure the subsistence and care of asylum-seekers and persons in need of temporary protection by means of providing for their reception.

By an amendment (118/2002) which entered into force on 3 March 2002, new provisions were added to the Integration Act, under which the special needs of minors and of victims of torture, rape or other physical or sexual violence, as well as of other persons in a vulnerable position, shall be taken into account in the provision of services.

4. Reception of victims of torture

Within the framework of the yearly refugee quota, Finland receives both refugees who have left their country of origin for fear of persecution on account of political opinions and refugees belonging to a special category, such as the “woman-at-risk” group. The quota for the year 2002 is 750 refugees selected in accordance with government guidelines and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) principles.

5. Conditions of Roma and foreigners in prisons

According to the Advisory Board for Roma Affairs, which is subordinate to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, persons of Roma origin still face problems in prisons. The Board draws attention to the following problems:

(a) Roma prisoners are often held in isolation in Finnish prisons, largely due to their ethnic origin;

(b) According to the prison staff, isolation is in the interests of Roma as, due to tensions between different prisoner groups, their security may not always be guaranteed by other means;

(c) In fear of internal conflicts and violence, the Roma prisoners have not complained of the practice of isolation;

(d) According to information received by the Advisory Board, negative attitudes have been observed among the prison staff in some prisons.

The initiative of the Prison Training Centre to set up a working group to prepare a report on the situation of Roma prisoners resulted in a publication entitled Roma in Finnish Prisons. The report pays attention to the preparedness of prison staff to prevent discrimination and contains proposals for measures to improve the situation of Roma prisoners. The working group set up on the basis of the report is to complete its work by the end of 2002; it shall, inter alia:

(a) Address the situation and conditions of Roma in prisons, their preparedness to carry out community service or reintegrate into society upon release, and the status of Roma prisoners with regard to their right to maintain their own language and culture;

(b) Find means to reduce threats faced by Roma and any security risks, and to make it possible for Roma to serve their prison sentences in normal wards and to participate in work and other activities which would improve their possibilities to reintegrate in society;

(c) Assess whether Roma contact persons are needed in prisons and whether it would be possible to establish a network of contact persons for Roma, providing support outside prison.

The working group consists of representatives of the Prison Service, prison directors (3), the Probation Service, the Prison Training Centre, the Advisory Board for Roma Affairs and the Roma Training Unit of the National Board of Education.

The former Prison Department of the Ministry of Justice (the current Probation Service) has distributed a guide entitled Roma and Health Services among prison directors and senior doctors at the psychiatric hospitals of prisons, providing information on the Roma culture and its special aspects, as well as on the views of Roma concerning health, illnesses, death and society. The guide is meant for both the prison staff and prisoners.

As observed in the preceding sections, the number of foreign prisoners has particularly increased in the past few years. The largest categories of foreign prisoners are the Estonians and Russians. More than 50 per cent of the foreign prisoners are in prison for having committed narcotics offences, approximately 10 per cent for homicide and approximately 20 per cent for having committed offences against property.

Foreign prisoners - in the same way as any prisoners - must be afforded a fair and human treatment. They must not, without a just reason, be placed in a different position on account of their race, nationality or ethnic origin, colour, language, religion or cultural background. All prisoners must, upon arrival at the prison, be given appropriate guidance with regard to the daily rules of the prison, in a language that they understand. For this purpose, many prisons have guides in different languages. Due to the increased number of foreign prisoners, the language training of prison staff has been increased accordingly. The right of foreign prisoners to communicate with a person representing their religion and the right to practise their own religion and culture will be guaranteed in accordance with the prison rules; for example, Muslim prisoners are provided with different food during Ramadan. Due to the need to understand work-related safety instructions, foreign prisoners who understand Finnish are able to participate more easily in work; however, prisoners who do not understand Finnish may be provided with language courses.

6. Administrative detention of foreigners

The procedure applied to and the acceptable grounds for the administrative detention of foreigners are mainly provided in sections 47, 48, 48a and 51 of the Aliens Act. The conditions under which foreigners may be detained are provided for in section 46 of the Aliens Act which reads:

“If the conditions described in section 45, paragraph 1, above apply and there exist reasonable cause, with regard to an alien’s personal and other circumstances, to believe that he will hide or commit criminal offences in Finland, or if his identity has yet to be established, he may be placed in detention instead of employing the means of control specified in section 45 above.”

However, in accordance with the purpose and objective of the principle of proportionality set forth in section 1, subsection 4, of the Aliens Act, the means of control such as the obligation to report to the police, provided for in section 45 of the Act, should prevail over detention. According to section 47 of the Aliens Act, “an alien who is placed in detention shall be taken to detention facilities specifically reserved for this purpose as soon as possible”. Persons detained under the provisions of the Aliens Act have occasionally been held in prisons.

Under amended section 25 (118/2002) of the Integration Act and section 46 of the Aliens Act, it is possible to place the detained persons in reception centres. However, it has been necessary to enact specific provisions of law on the detention of foreigners. The Act on the Treatment of Aliens and Detention Units (116/2002), under which detained foreigners shall be held in special detention units, entered into force on 1 March 2002. The new Act contains provisions, inter alia, on the treatment, rights and obligations of foreigners held in detention.

Under an amendment (117/2002) made to the Aliens Act, which also entered into force on 1 March 2002, a detained foreigner may temporarily be placed in a police establishment when the special detention units are temporarily full or when the foreigner is detained in a town which is located far from the closest detention unit. Detention in a police establishment may not last longer than four days. A temporary placement of a foreigner in a police establishment shall be notified to the district court of the place of detention or, in an urgent case, to another district court. In its order (SM-2002-1454/Tu-41, 2 July 2002), the Ministry of the Interior considered that, for example, a detention taking place more than 100 km from Helsinki is “far from the closest detention unit” within the meaning of the Act, although such an assessment shall be made in the light of the circumstances of each individual case. Under the amendment to the Aliens Act, a decision on temporary detention of a foreigner, not exceeding 48 hours, may be made either by the police or by a high-ranking frontier guard officer.

Since the entry into force of the new Act, no foreigners detained under the Aliens Act have been imprisoned. A temporary (about a year) national detention unit for foreigners was opened in July 2002 on the premises of the closed remand prison, in Katajanokka, Helsinki.

A Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman, upon an inspection made at the Helsinki prison on 19 October 2000, paid particular attention to the situation of foreign prisoners (see information given below under article 11, paragraph 75).

The Minority Ombudsman drew attention to the fact that, before the special detention unit was opened, he had been informed of cases where asylum-seekers had been held in a police establishment for a relatively long time (three to four weeks). Furthermore, in some cases the police had carried out interrogations of asylum-seekers while they were being held in detention, in order to find out whether their applications were founded. According to the statement of the Minority Ombudsman, asylum-seekers may have felt pressure during the interrogations and some have withdrawn their applications as a result of the interrogations . The Minority Ombudsman notes that interrogations which are carried out for a purpose other than establishing the identity of the asylum-seeker may be considered to be contrary to the administrative purpose of the detention.

As far as the detention of minors is concerned, section 46, subsection 2 (661/2001) of the Aliens Act provides that persons under 18 years of age may not be detained before their cases are heard by the social welfare authorities or the Minority Ombudsman. According to the new provisions (117/2002), which entered into force on 1 March 2002, a person under 18 may only be placed in a police establishment together with his or her family or custodian.

On the basis of the number of requests for opinion submitted to the Minority Ombudsman, between December 2001 and May 2002, 30 asylum-seekers under 18 years old arrived in Finland without a custodian. Of these, three had been detained by the police because of unclear identity. The minors taken into police custody were born in 1983, 1984 and 1985, and they were held in detention for one, five and eight days, respectively. During detention, one of the boys had been interrogated twice, and there was only an interpreter present apart from the police officer. According to the Minority Ombudsman, a legal representative should always be present during the interrogation of a minor. A person detained under section 52 of the
Aliens Act must be provided with an opportunity to contact a legal counsel, the Minority Ombudsman, a representative of his or her country of origin, a person meeting him or her upon arrival in Finland or a close family member.

The Minority Ombudsman notes that, before the opening of the separate detention unit, he had been informed of cases where the social welfare authorities had not seen any obstacle to the placement of a minor alone in police custody. This cannot be in the best interests of the child as required by section 1c of the Aliens Act, but the social welfare authorities should have found another way to provide for the detention of the minor in question. However, now that there is a special detention unit, the situation should also improve in respect of detained minors who are not accompanied by a custodian.

7. Amendment of the Mental Health Act

The Mental Health Act has been amended since the submission of the third periodic report (CAT/C/44/Add.6). The amendment (417/2001) entered into force on 1 June 2002; its purpose is to clarify and supplement certain provisions concerning the restrictions on freedom or persons taken into observation under the Act. The revised provisions take into account the requirements of the Constitution and human rights conventions binding on Finland, thus strengthening the legal safeguards of the rights of the patient and staff.

The amendment makes it possible to take into account, inter alia, the recommendation of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), according to which “every instance of the physical restraint of a patient [should be] recorded in a specific register established for that purpose”. The Mental Health Act provides for the conditions under which physical restraint may be used in the hospital treatment of a mental health patient and for the conditions under which a patient may be tied or isolated from other patients and his or her right of communication restricted. The Act further provides for inspections that may be carried out in order to find items or substances endangering the safety of patients, as well as for the seizure of such items or substances.

Furthermore, the right of appeal of patients has been extended in order to improve the legal safeguards of their rights and the possibilities of State provincial offices to supervise psychiatric hospitals have been improved. The Act on Administrative Courts was amended to provide for the presence of an expert member in the court session deciding on the restriction of the right of communication or on the seizure of property.

8. Use of involuntary treatment under the Mental Health Act

In 2000, nearly 20 per cent of treatment given under the Mental Health Act was initially provided against the will of the patient. Of all the patients treated, 7.6 per cent were placed in isolation. The provisions of the Mental Health Act governing the restriction of the fundamental rights of the patient during involuntary treatment, also apply to the examination of the mental health and the treatment of persons accused of an offence, taking place in a psychiatric hospital.

In 1999, the State Real Property Agency was changed into a State-owned company, and in 2001 it was given the name “Senate Properties”.

Table 1


Days used for involuntary treatment

Number of measures taken against the will of the patient


Use of ties

Injections given against the will of the patient (%)

Physical restraints (%)



28 060







28 508







31 431







32 336





9. Involuntary psychiatric treatment and public care of minors

On 23 August 1999, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health set up a working group to review the arrangements for the involuntary psychiatric treatment of minors. The working group aimed at a consistent application of the criterion of serious mental disorder, the condition for involuntary treatment. A further objective was to ensure that particularly dangerous patients and patients whose treatment is otherwise difficult are provided with care in an appropriate establishment. The working group concluded that there was no need to amend the Mental Health Act insofar as the requirement of serious mental disorder was concerned. The interpretation of the concept of “serious mental disturbance” is based on a medical assessment in each individual case. The working group feels that a consistent interpretation of the provisions of the Act could be enhanced by providing doctors with instructions on the meaning of the concept. The working group noted that the protection of minors required that appropriate examinations and care be available within the framework of the mental health care system, seven days a week throughout the year. It also found it necessary to establish a new unit of psychiatric treatment for minors.

In 2003, two national treatment units will be opened for children and young persons who are either dangerous or whose treatment is otherwise difficult. The units will be subordinate to Niuvanniemi Hospital in Kuopio and to Pirkanmaa Hospital District, respectively; both units will be able to treat 12 inpatients at a time.

According to the Child Welfare Act (683/1983), the purpose of child welfare is to ensure a child the rights referred to in section 1 of the Act “by providing a good general growing environment, by assisting the custodians in child upbringing and by providing family-oriented and individual child welfare”. A child may be taken into public care under the Act even where the child - provided he or she is at least 12 years old - or his or her custodians object to public care. A decision on public care means that the responsibility for the care and education of the child is assumed by society. Such a decision is necessary:

(a) If the child’s health or development is seriously endangered by lack of care or other conditions at home, or if the child seriously endangers his health or development by abuse of intoxicants, by committing an illegal act other than a minor offence, or by any other comparable behaviour;

(b) If the measures of assistance in open care are not appropriate or possible or have proved to be inadequate; and

(c) If substitute care is considered to be in the best interests of the child.

In 2001, there were a total of 13,453 children and young persons placed in care outside their homes. The placements in public care have increased in number over the past few years, by approximately 2 to 5 per cent each year. In 2001, there were 1,332 children and young persons taken into public care against their will.

Table 2

Children and young persons placed in public care, 1995-2001


Substitute family care

Institutional care


Share of minors in public
care of all under‑18‑year-old persons in Finland

Decisions on public care

Decisions made against the will of the child or custodians


5 318

5 379

10 697


6 478

1 128


5 440

5 684

11 124


6 474

1 035


5 622

6 142

11 764


6 803

1 092


5 591

6 419

12 010


6 778

1 130


5 681

6 543

12 224


6 802

1 153


5 833

7 002

12 835


7 290

1 311


5 995

7 458

13 453


7 396

1 332


10. Report on the use of involuntary measures within social welfare and health care

In March 2001, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health designated a reporting official to submit proposals concerning the use of necessary involuntary measures and restriction of rights within social welfare and health care. The proposals were to be submitted by 31 December 2001. Involuntary measures and restrictions mean measures taken in the framework of institutional or open care, restricting the fundamental rights of the client or patient. The provisions concerning involuntary psychiatric treatment and involuntary child welfare measures, which were being reformed at the time, were excluded from the report.

It is proposed that more specific provisions be enacted on the involuntary care of the disabled and the involuntary treatment of intoxicant abusers. The legislation would contain provisions on the acceptable grounds for and forms of restriction of the rights of the patient, the nature and duration of the restrictions, the procedure applied to decision-making, and the legal safeguards. It is further proposed that the different forms of voluntary treatment be more clearly
set out in the law. It is observed that social welfare clients and patients may also view voluntary treatment as a restraint. Furthermore, involuntary treatment and restrictions may occasionally be resorted to for reasons which are not considered acceptable. According to the report, the prevention of such cases must be an integral part of the work to improve the quality and availability of social welfare and health-care services. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has, together with the National Research and Development Centre for Welfare and Health and the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities, prepared recommendations for the quality standards applied to the care of elderly people and to mental health services.

The report also draws attention to the provisions of the Act on the Status and Rights of Patients (785/1992, hereinafter “the Patients Act”) and the Act on the Status and Rights of Social Welfare Clients (812/2000, hereinafter “the Social Welfare Clients Act”), proposing that their provisions on the patient’s consent to care be clarified. It is further proposed that more precise provisions be enacted in respect of the status of persons with severe handicaps or dementia, and that the acceptable grounds for restricting their rights be set out in the law.

11. Patients Act and Social Welfare Clients Act

Many provisions of the Patients Act and the Social Welfare Clients Act are closely related to the protection of fundamental and human rights. The Patients Act provides for the right of patients to good-quality health care and hospital care, and the Social Welfare Clients Act contains a comparable provision on the client’s right to good social welfare services and fair treatment. The Social Welfare Clients Act requires that the treatment of clients does not violate their human dignity nor their beliefs and privacy.

The Acts also provide for the right of patients and clients to decide for themselves and to participate in the planning of treatment and services, respectively. Under the Patients Act, the patient’s care must be based on consent. Should a patient refuse a given treatment or care, he or she must be provided, insofar as possible, with other medically acceptable treatment or care on his or her consent. The Social Welfare Clients Act contains a provision under which the clients’ wishes and opinions shall be a primary concern in the provision of social welfare services and the clients’ right to decide for themselves shall also otherwise be respected. The clients shall be provided with an opportunity to participate in and affect the planning and implementation of their services.

12. Statistics on complaints regarding psychiatric treatment and
monitoring of decisions made on complaints

Since 2000, the State provincial offices and the National Authority for Medico-Legal Affairs have compiled statistics on complaints regarding psychiatric treatment. In 2001, they set up a joint working group to prepare the publication of decisions made on such complaints and, since 2001, the National Authority for Medico-Legal Affairs has also published decisions on its web site (, in addition to printed publications.

B. Article 3

Return of asylum-seekers and safe countries of origin

Since the submission of the third periodic report (CAT/C/44/Add.6), the Finnish Aliens Act has partly been reformed (see the sixteenth periodic report of Finland on the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD/C/409/Add.2, art. 2, sects. E and F, paras. 124-136, and Annex 4).

In the provisions on a so-called accelerated procedure applied to the processing of applications for asylum, reference is made to the concepts of “safe country of asylum” and “safe country of origin”, but the earlier lists of safe countries of origin are no longer included in the Aliens Act. The lists were given up for the simple reason that it is impossible to say with certainty that a given country is absolutely safe for every person, without examining each individual case. Therefore, the Directorate of Immigration shall carry out a case-by-case assessment of the need for asylum and for a residence permit, taking into account the evidence provided by the applicant on his or her conditions in the country of origin during the processing of his or her application, as well as other available information on the situation in the country in question.

The decision of a Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman with regard to a complaint made concerning the deportation of an asylum-seeker and another decision concerning a complaint about the regulations applied to the processing of applications for asylum are given account of under article 11 below.

The Committee against Torture is currently seized of the first communication received concerning Finland. The communication relates to a decision made by the Directorate of Immigration in 2001 on the deportation of a Sri Lankan asylum-seeker. The author of the communication invoked article 3 of the Convention. Finland has submitted its observations on the communication and the consideration is still pending.

C. Article 4

1. Punishability of torture in Finland

See Part III below (Measures taken for the implementation of the conclusions and recommendations of the Committee).

2. Occurrence of torture in Finland

See the information given below concerning the Parliamentary Ombudsman under article 11 (paras. 67-82).

D. Article 10

Staff training

It was indicated in the previous periodic report that human rights training is provided, inter alia, to the police, the personnel of the Frontier Guard and prison administration, prosecutors, trial lawyers, social welfare and health-care personnel and the civil servants of ministries and their administrations.

Human rights education is also included in the basic training of teachers, and some universities have special courses on human rights. Both the authorities and non-governmental organizations provide continuing education for teachers in the field of ethics as well as teaching materials on cultural diversity and human rights. Furthermore, during training of teachers providing education for immigrants, which is part of the teachers’ continuing education, attention is also paid to the special needs of victims of torture.

E. Article 11

Parliamentary Ombudsman

According to section 109 of the Finnish Constitution, “in the performance of his or her duties, the [Parliamentary] Ombudsman monitors the implementation of basic rights and liberties and human rights”. Thus, the Parliamentary Ombudsman has a particular duty to pay attention to compliance by authorities with their obligation to respect the fundamental and human rights of citizens, such as the right to respect for human dignity and to human treatment.

In the cases examined since the submission of Finland’s third periodic report (CAT/C/44/Add.6), the Parliamentary Ombudsman has not found any indications of torture. However, he has drawn attention to the aspects of human dignity and human treatment in government activities. The need to ensure respect for human dignity has been addressed both in the context of inspections made at closed psychiatric wards and of opinions given on complaints about ill-treatment.

The following is a summary of relevant opinions given and observations made by the Parliamentary Ombudsman in 1998-2002.

(a) Psychiatric hospital treatment

On 31 December 1998, a Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman (who is the present Parliamentary Ombudsman) gave a decision on the use of isolation as a form of psychiatric hospital treatment. The following deficiencies were observed:

(a) In some cases, patients who had voluntarily sought hospital treatment were isolated from other patients, although the law only allows the isolation of a patient who is under observation or who has been ordered to be given hospital treatment;

(b) In some cases, it seemed that isolation had been used as a means of punishment in violation of the provisions of law;

(c) Not all decisions on isolation had been made by a doctor, although it is required by the law;

(d) The rooms used for isolating patients in hospitals were not always appropriate. This is a relevant fact to be taken into account in the assessment of the question of whether due respect has been paid to human dignity in the isolation of patients and whether the health and hospital care is of good quality;

(e) Different means had been used in the observation of patients. For example, the instructions concerning the monitoring of the welfare and safety of a tied patient were rather inconsistent.

In his decision, the Parliamentary Ombudsman further stated that more specific provisions of law were necessary in respect of the use of isolation in psychiatric hospital treatment. The provisions of the Mental Health Act have in fact been amended after the decision was given, identifying more clearly the acceptable restrictions on the patients’ right to decide on their treatment (see information given under article 2 above).

In the context of inspections made at psychiatric hospitals, the Parliamentary Ombudsman has also paid attention to the treatment of foreign patients. However, no deficiencies were found in this respect.

(b) Community homes

Between 11 October 2000 and 17 October 2001, the Parliamentary Ombudsman carried out inspections at all State-financed community homes (with education on the premises). In the light of the inspections, the Parliamentary Ombudsman is preparing an extensive report on the methods of education applied at community homes and on the use of isolation and restrictions on children’s right to decide for themselves. Upon an inspection made at Lagmansgården Community Home on 9 October 2001, the Parliamentary Ombudsman paid attention, inter alia, to the use of physical restraint and to the possibility of children getting mental health services (decision No. 2678/2/01).

(c) Prisons

During prison inspections, the Parliamentary Ombudsman always pays particular attention to the situation of the Roma, foreigners and persons belonging to other minorities. Individual complaints have been made about the inappropriate treatment of Roma prisoners, but investigations made have indicated that problems are caused by the attitudes of other prisoners rather than those of the prison authorities. During the inspections, the Parliamentary Ombudsman has drawn the staff’s attention to their duty to ensure the safety of prisoners of Roma origin or belonging to other minorities, and to prevent pressure by other prisoners.

A Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman made an inspection at Helsinki prison on 19 October 2000, and paid particular attention to the situation of foreign prisoners. He found that the placement of foreigners, detained for administrative purposes under the Aliens Act, in
prisons or police establishments was not appropriate. He also felt that prisons were not “detention facilities specifically reserved for this purpose” within the meaning of section 47 of the Aliens Act (decision No. 2814/4/98 and opinion No. 548/4/01).

In a decision of a Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman, the director of the Riihimäki central prison was criticized on account of having imposed a collective punishment on prisoners although such punishment was not permitted by the law (decision No. 959/4/99). Furthermore, the Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman paid attention to the monitoring of the health of prisoners placed in isolation (decision No. 148/4/98) and to the consistency of disciplinary measures taken in prisons (decision No. 272/2/99).

In his opinion (No. 1981/05/01) given on a committee report concerning sentences of imprisonment (Committee Report No. 2001:6), the Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman drew attention to conditions in certain prisons. In complaints made by prisoners and during on-site inspections made at prisons, the conditions in prisons, in particular hygiene, have repeatedly been criticized. There are still cells without separate sanitary space in some prisons. In this respect, the Parliamentary Ombudsman submitted to the Criminal Sanctions Agency a request for information on such cells in Turku prison.

As a positive development, the Parliamentary Ombudsman names in his report the new prison opened in Vantaa in the summer of 2002, providing safe and appropriate conditions for prisoners; the new prison replaced Helsinki Remand Prison in Katajanokka.

(d) Police establishments

One of the Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsmen paid attention to the importance of providing persons under investigation with food regularly (decision No. 1421/4/99). The Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman referred to views presented by the CPT noting that electronic recording of police interrogations would be important with regard to the rights of both the police officers and suspects. In 1998 and 1999, the Parliamentary Ombudsman carried out a special inspection at police establishments. In the context of this inspection, attention was paid to the condition of detention premises, supervision and respect for the rights of the persons deprived of their liberty.

(e) Aliens

In a decision concerning the deportation of a Pakistani asylum-seeker (decision No. 1851/4/00), one of the Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsmen drew attention to certain aspects of the protection of the rights of asylum-seekers in the event that they renew their application, and to the implementation of the final decision on deportation. In the case examined, the author of the complaint alleged that, as a result of the implementation of the decision on his deportation by the Finnish police, he had been subjected to torture and inhuman treatment upon arrival to his country of origin. Before deportation, the author had submitted a new application for asylum. Although no violation of the law had taken place, the Deputy Parliamentary Ombudsman found that, with regard to the application of the prohibition of deportation to an area where the asylum‑seeker might be subjected to torture or inhuman treatment, it would be important that the authorities, where possible, follow the treatment of the asylum‑seekers upon their arrival in their countries of origin.

In a decision given on a complaint concerning the processing of an application for asylum (decision No. 1410/4/00), a Parliamentary Ombudsman found that the regulations were inadequate insofar as they concerned the investigations to be carried out in the country of origin of the asylum-seeker. The Parliamentary Ombudsman was of the opinion that the instructions of the Ministry of the Interior concerning the examination of applications for asylum needed to be made more specific so as to take into account the situations in which, and the means by which, the existence of a need for asylum could also be investigated in the country of origin of the asylum-seeker, with due respect for confidentiality and security.

(f) Defence forces

The Parliamentary Ombudsman criticized an army officer for having treated a conscript inappropriately. The officer had, among other things, thrown water at the sleeping conscript. The Parliamentary Ombudsman issued an admonition to the army officer for behaviour which was inappropriate for soldiers (decision No. 2572/2/97).

F. Article 12

1. Criminal Investigations Act/Reporting obligation of the police

Under section 15, subsection 1, of the Criminal Investigations Act (449/1987), the police shall inform a public prosecutor where there is reason to believe that someone has committed an offence. However, there is no need to report simple cases. Thus, in the light of this provision, the police shall always inform the public prosecutor of serious offences, such as torture within the meaning of the Convention.

Furthermore, under section 7 of the Decree on Criminal Investigations and Coercive Measures (575/1988), the investigative authorities are under an obligation to also inform the public prosecutor of such offences on which the prosecutor himself has specifically requested a report. With reference to this provision, the Prosecutor General submitted on 30 August 2000 a request to the National Bureau of Investigation, which is responsible for the investigation of the most significant offences, to inform not only the district prosecutor, but also the Office of the Prosecutor General of any serious offences which have links to organized and international crime. The said provisions of law are designed to ensure that the public prosecutors are informed of serious offences, including possible torture cases.

District prosecutors shall without delay inform the Office of the Prosecutor General of cases referred to in section 7, subsection 2, of the Act on Public Prosecutors (199/1997), in accordance with the instructions given by the Prosecutor General. The Prosecutor General may also order that other offences be reported to his Office. On 24 February 1998, the Prosecutor General issued a general order and instructions on the reporting obligation of district prosecutors (VKSV 1998:1).

According to the Office of the Prosecutor General, if a suspected case of torture within the meaning of the Convention was reported to the police, the case would fall within the scope of application of the above-mentioned instructions and would have to be further reported to the Office of the Prosecutor General. The purpose of the instructions is to ensure that the Office is aware of cases of a serious nature, such as torture cases.

2. Investigation of suspected offences committed by police officers

In cases where police officers are suspected of having committed an offence, it is particularly important to ensure the impartiality of the assessment of the need for prosecution and the trust of the public in that impartiality. In its conclusions on the second periodic report of Finland (CAT/C/25/Add.7), the Committee recommended that the investigation of suspected offences committed by police officers be vested in an independent body. As mentioned in the third periodic report (CAT/C/44/Add.6, para. 37), since December 1997, the responsibility for leading such investigations has been vested in the public prosecutors instead of the police authorities (section 14, subsection 2, of the Criminal Investigations Act). The latest order of the Prosecutor General with regard to the investigation of offences committed by police officers was issued on 28 December 2001 (VKSV 2001:2). The order is based on the principle that the leading investigator shall be from a district other than the one in which the suspect works. Furthermore, on 28 January 2002, the Prosecutor General issued general instructions for prosecutors leading investigations of offences committed by police officers, concerning the procedures to be applied to the pre-trial investigation and its completion (VKSV 2002:1). It is underlined in the instructions, inter alia, that an assessment of need for prosecution shall always be made and that the prosecution shall always be conducted by a prosecutor other than the one leading the investigations.

G. Article 14

Treatment and rehabilitation of victims of torture

The Centre for Torture Survivors operating at the Deaconess Institute in Helsinki, which was established in 1993, is the only national unit of specialized psychiatric treatment providing medical examinations, psychotherapy and counselling services for refugees, asylum-seekers and their families, who have been tortured in their countries of origin. The Centre also provides training for authorities in respect of the needs of torture victims. The Centre has paid particular attention to the training of health care professionals and doctors.

Apart from the Centre for Torture Survivors, there are units and teams of professionals specialized in the treatment of traumatic experiences of refugees, both in the private (for example, in Oulu) and public sector (for example, in Tampere) providing mental health care. As regards the reception centres for asylum-seekers, the national centre in Oulu is specialized in the collective treatment of the traumatic experiences of refugees. During several years, the centre in Oulu has been developing methods of providing psychosocial support for asylum‑seekers, in addition to psychotherapy and other forms of individual care.


During the consideration of the third periodic report of Finland (CAT/C/44/Add.6), the Committee heard the representatives of the Government on 11 and 12 November 1999. Individual questions asked during the consideration of the report were answered orally. The question raised in respect of the conduct of Joensuu Police in the context of investigating racist
offences has been examined by the Office of the Prosecutor General: the Prosecutor General ordered a new pre-trial investigation. However, no charges were brought on the basis of the investigation, as there was no adequate evidence in support of the charges brought against the suspects.


The Committee against Torture considered the second periodic report of Finland and adopted its final conclusions and recommendations (A/55/44, paras. 51-55) at its 397th, 400th and 402nd meetings on 11, 12 and 15 November 1999 . The Committee recommended that Finland enact adequate penal provisions to make torture, as defined in article 1 of the Convention, a punishable offence in accordance with article 4, paragraph 2, of the Convention; that the law governing isolation in pre-trial detention places be changed by establishing judicial supervision for the determination of the isolation, its duration and its maximum period; and that organizations which promote and incite racial discrimination, as well as the dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, be declared illegal and prohibited.

1. Inclusion of a definition of torture in the Penal Code

The Committee expressed concern that the Finnish Penal Code contains no specific definition of torture nor separate provisions on the offence of torture, punishable in accordance with article 4, paragraph 2, of the Convention (para. 54a) . The Committee recommended (para. 55a) that such a definition be included in the Penal Code in accordance with article 1 of the Convention.

In addition to the information given in the third periodic report (CAT/C/44/Add.6), the Government wishes to make the following observations . The Government finds it important that the acts referred to in article 1, paragraph 1, of the Convention be established as criminal offences in all States parties to the Convention, and that they be subject to sufficiently severe punishments, as required by article 4, paragraph 2 . All the acts referred to in the Convention are punishable under Finnish law notwithstanding the fact that there are no provisions defining the crime of torture . Indeed, in the context of the general reform of the Penal Code, one of the objectives was to combine different elements of crime so as to reduce the number of different headings of crime . Therefore, the Government still does not find it necessary to specifically define the elements of torture.

Furthermore, the Government is convinced that any observed case of torture would receive wide publicity in Finland, and would certainly be reported to the Committee. The Government is also convinced of the fact that if a public official was guilty of the conduct referred to in article 1, paragraph 1, of the Convention, he or she would, even without the existence of specific elements of crime or scale of sentencing in the Penal Code, be subject to a very severe sentence. The mere fact that the offender is a public official would increase the normal maximum sentence to be imposed for assault, by two to three years. Considering that the court would most likely consider torture a cruel and therefore aggravated assault, the maximum sentence would be 13 years’ imprisonment.

2. Law governing isolation in pre-trial detention

The Committee was concerned about the fact that, although the use of isolation in certain cases of pre-trial detention is initially authorized by a judge, its terms of implementation are decided upon administratively (para. 54b) . The Committee therefore recommends that the law be changed by establishing judicial supervision for the determination of the isolation, its duration and its maximum period (para. 55b).

As proposed in the Government Bill regarding a new Detention Act, an account of which is given under article 2 above, the new Act would contain provisions on the maximum duration of the pre-trial detention in police establishments . A court would decide on the place of detention as well as on the restriction of the detainee’s right of communication during pre-trial investigation, process of assessing the need for prosecution, and trial . Any restrictions on the right of communication should be regularly reviewed, together with the detention order.

3. Prohibition of organizations which promote and incite racial discrimination, as well as of the dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred

The Committee further recommended that Finland declare illegal and prohibit organizations which promote and incite racial discrimination, as well as the dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred (para. 55c).

The Government informs the Committee that Parliament is discussing a Government Bill (HE 183/1999), establishing participation in the activities of a criminal organization as a criminal offence . Furthermore, under section 43 of the Associations Act (503/1989), courts may order organizations which essentially violate the law or good practices to discontinue their activities . The continuation of activities in such a case is also punishable under the law (section 62 of the Associations Act) . As regards the dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, charges may be brought for ethnic agitation under Chapter 11, section 8, of the Penal Code or for incitement to the commission of an offence under Chapter 17, section 1, of the Penal Code.


List of annexes *

1. Average number of Prisoners in 1975-2000 (statistics)

2. Remand Prisoners and Imprisoned Fine Defaulters in 1975-2001 (statistics)

3. Principal Offence of Prisoners Serving a Sentence in 1997-2002 (1 May)

4. The Statistics of Prison Administration and Probation Administration of Finland in 2001

5. Assessment Method for Evaluating the Working Capacity of Prison Inmates

6. Mission and Short-Term Policies of the Prison Administration and the Probation Association of Finland

7. Extract from the 16 Periodic Report on the Implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

8. Brochure on Prison Service in Finland

9. Leaflet on Probation Service in Finland

10. Handout on Centre for Torture Survivors

11. Parliamentary Ombudsman of Finland . Annual Report 2000 . English Summary

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* These annexes may be consulted in the files of the secretariat.


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