UN committee finds Finland court decision violated Sámi people’s human rights
Photo credit: Xi Lucy Shi
UN committee finds Finland court decision violated Sámi people’s human rights

The UN Human Rights Committee two decisions Friday finding Finland violated the political rights of representatives to the Sámi parliament by improperly enlarging the electoral roll of eligible candidates.

The two claims were submitted separately by President of the Sámi Parliament Tiina Sanila-Aikio and 25 other persons as members of the indigenous Saami people. The case concerns the matter of admitting 93 ineligible persons into the electoral roll of the Sámi Parliament pursuant to decisions made by the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland on 30 September 2015.

The Human Rights Committee found that the decisions of the court against the stand of the Sámi Parliament’s Election Committee and Executive Board violated article 25 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights concerning individual right to political participation, and in conjunction with article 27 concerning the rights of minorities as interpreted in light of article 1 concerning the right of peoples to self-determination.

The committee recalled the UN Declaration that “indigenous peoples possess collective rights which are indispensable for their existence, well-being and integral development as peoples,” and further found that the parliament is an important instrument for the Sámi to enjoy and exercise such rights. Accordingly, the electoral process for the Sámi Parliament must ensure the indigenous people effective participation, and any statutory restriction of such rights must be based on reasonable and objective justification.

The committee requested Finland ensure that the criteria for eligibility to vote in Sámi Parliament elections are defined and applied in a manner that respects the right of the Sámi people to exercise their internal self-determination in accordance with articles 25 and 27 of the covenant and to provide “full reparation.” Finland is also under an obligation to take all steps necessary to prevent similar violations in the future.