Welcome to the Prisoners for Peace special edition of The Broken Rifle. The focus of Prisoners for Peace Day 2004 is the imprisonment of conscientious objectors in Finland. Finland, a member state of the European Union, continues to imprison conscientious objectors who refuse to perform a substitute service which is punitive in length. And the number of imprisoned conscientious objectors is growing - now standing at about 70-80 annually.
Finland still maintains a very extensive conscription system. About 80% of all male Finnish citizens perform military service, a bit more than 10 % are exempted from service and about 7 % apply for conscientious objection.
In its own way, Finland is a very militarised country, although it might not look like that at first sight. Finnish militarism does not mean that the military is strikingly visible in society or that it necessarily has more influence in the society than in other Western European countries. It is rather a state of mind, a historically constructed way of thinking, according to which Finland is always under military threat - even when no one has got any idea who might cause this threat or no one can imagine a situation where it might materialise.
The defence of the entire country is only possible if general conscription is maintained. The high educational standard of conscripts makes it possible, with the current periods of service, to provide conscript training in even the more demanding tasks, and to recruit high-quality personnel for international crisis management tasks and for the professional personnel posts in the Defence Forces.
How the list works
First are prisoners' names (in bold), followed by their sentence, then their place of imprisonment and, finally the reason for their detention
Information about countries where prisoners have had their sentences suspended, or where sentences have been served or completed during the year are in italics.
Although Armenia passed a law on conscientious objection during the year, the country continues to imprison conscientious objectors.
In July 2001, Jussi Hermaja was sentenced by a Finnish court for total objection - nothing special, just one of about 70 cases per year. However, unlike most other conscientious objection, Jussi Hermaja did not report to prison, but fled to Belgium in October 2001, and applied for asylum. This was the beginning of a very special asylum case.
Several groups and organisations work to support conscientious objectors in Finland
Aseistakieltäytyiäliitto Union of Conscientious Objectors, Peace Station, Veturitori, 00520 Helsinki, Finland tel +358 9 140427; fax 147297 email email@example.com www.aseistakieltaytyjaliitto.fi/
The Broken Rifle is the newsletter of War Resisters' International, and is published in English, Spanish, French and German. This is issue 64, November 2004.
This issue of The Broken Rifle was produced by Andreas Speck. Special thanks go to Kaj Raninen and Simo Hellsten from Finland, to Amnesty International and Forum 18 News Service, who provided the information used in this issue.
If you want extra copies of this issue of The Broken Rifle, please contact the WRI office, or download it from our website.