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FINLAND: Total objector Topi Louko sentenced to 126 days in prison

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  • Finland
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Topi Louko, a 28-year old total objector from Lempäälä, was sentenced to prison for 126 days for "refusal of civilian service" (siviilipalveluksesta kieltäytyminen) on 9 October 2012. The trial was held in Eastern Uusimaa district court (Itä-Uudenmaan käräjäoikeus) in Porvoo. Louko had refused to continue his civilian service in September 2011.

Topi Louko's refusal is based on reasons of conscience. He sees the conscription system in Finland as an offence against individual freedom and he does not want to serve as part of it.

Conscientious objection is part of the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion protected by Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

According to the United Nation's Human Rights Committee, no discrimination is permitted against or among conscientious objectors (General Comment 22, para. 11).

However, the government of Finland currently gives 'preferential treatment' to Jehovah’s Witnesses, who have been exempted from conscription is peace time since 1987.

In 2004, the UN Human Rights' Committee called upon the State to end discrimination inherent in the categories that can benefit from it (Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: Finland), reiterating their concern that the preferential treatment of Jehovah's Witnesses has not been extended to other groups of conscientious objectors. In 2012 the discrimination still stands.

International pressure is important at this stage, since Topi's sentence has not yet started. War Resisters' International calls for letters of protest to Finnish Prime Minister Jyrki Tapani Katainen, or to Finnish embassies abroad. A protest email can be sent at http://www.wri-irg.org/node/20486. A list of Finnish embassies can be found here.

War Resisters' International calls for Topi Louko's sentence to be quashed.

Hannah Brock
War Resisters' International