The case Hermaja: Finnish CO applies for asylum in Belgium

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.

Belgium was well chosen. It is the only country of the European Union which recognises citizens of other EU member states as possible asylum seekers. However, the Commissioner General for Refugees rejected Jussi Hermaja's asylum application, stating that the length of substitute service in Finland is not punitive (although it is twice as long as military service). The Belgian High Court upheld this decision, following an appeal by Jussi Hermaja, in March 2004.

It now remains to be seen if Belgium will take measures against Jussi Hermaja and deport him to Finland, where he would face 197 days in prison.

Jussi Hermaja also appealed to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg against his sentence in Finland. However, a decision is unlikely in the near future.
Andreas Speck

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