Sentencing of total objector Topi Louko
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Dear Prime Minister,
I am extremely concerned to hear of the recent sentencing of Topi Louko, a conscientious objector in Finland. Topi Louko 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 refused to continue his civilian service in September 2011.
Topi Louko's refusal is based on reasons of conscience. 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 Finland 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.
I urge you to quash the sentence of Topi Louko, and end the discrimination inherent in the system of conscientious objection, as the UN Human Rights Committee have urged.
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