The Republic of Finland adopted its current Constitution in 1919. It provides that: "Everyone has the right to life, personal liberty, integrity and security." The Constitution further specifies that:
No one shall be sentenced to death, tortured or otherwise treated in a manner violating human dignity....
The personal integrity of the individual shall not be violated, nor shall anyone be deprived of liberty arbitrarily or without a reason prescribed by an Act.
The Constitution does not directly regulate the use of force by law enforcement agencies.
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||State Party|
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||State Party|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||State Party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||Yes|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||State Party|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||State Party|
|1950 European Convention on Human Rights||State Party|
Police Use of Force
According to the 1995 Police Act (as amended), police officers, when carrying out official duties, have the right to:
Use necessary force that can be considered justifiable to overcome resistance, remove a person from a place, carry out an apprehension, prevent the escape of a person who has been deprived of his or her liberty, remove an obstacle or prevent an immediate risk of an offence or some other dangerous act or event. The importance and urgency of the duty, the danger of resistance, the resources available and other circumstances influencing an overall assessment of the situation shall be taken into consideration when assessing the justifiability of the use of force.
The police also have the right, with the assistance of the Defence Forces, to use military force to prevent or interrupt the commission of a terrorist offence as laid down in the Act on Executive Assistance to the Police by the Defence Forces (781/1980).
The Police Act further notes that:
Persons who are targeted by official duties shall be warned of the possibility that force may be used against them if such a warning is possible and appropriate. The warning shall be given in a way that is understood and suitable for the purpose...
Firearms may be used
only when it is necessary to stop the actions of a person posing an immediate and serious danger to the life or health of another person and no more moderate means to do this are available.
In any event, police action must be reasonable and proportionate.
Use of Force in Custodial Settings
The 2005 Imprisonment Act stipulates that an official of the Prison Service has a right to use force under the following conditions:
in order to prevent a prisoner from escaping or exiting unauthorised, to break resistance orto perform a supervisory, inspection and precautionary measure ...
to prevent an entry into the prison..., to take possession of articles or goods, to remove from the area as well as to carry out apprehension and detention as well as at the threat of an offence directed at life or health or at the threat of another act or event endangering the health of a person, in order to prevent unauthorised entry, to remove an obstacle or to stop a vehicle.
The force shall be necessary and justifiable with regard to the circumstances. In assessing the justifiability, consideration shall be taken of the importance and urgency of the task, the dangerousness of the resistance, the resources available as well as any other issues with an effect on the overall assessment. Instruments of force may be used only by an official who has received the relevant training.
The Parliamentary Ombudsperson of Finland provides “oversight to ensure that public authorities and officials observe the law and fulfil their duties in the discharge of their functions.” Such officials include police and prison officials. The Ombudsperson provides Parliament (Eduskunta) with an annual report on its work.
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2017 Concluding Observations on Finland, the Committee Against Torture expressed its concern
that electric discharge weapons (tasers) have been used by police officers on a number of occasions in closed environments such as police stations. It is also concerned about the use of the FN303 model of compressed air riot weapons during demonstrations, as such weapons can cause serious injuries...
The Committee was further concerned
while the Parliamentary Ombudsman has been entrusted with the task of serving as the national preventive mechanism, insufficient financial or human resources have been allocated to the Ombudsman and that the mechanism may not have the human resources necessary to carry out its mandate.
Huohvanainen v. Finland (2007)
This 2007 case before European Court of Human Rights concerned the fatal police shooting of a 27-year-old man after a two-day siege. In its judgment, the Court observed that
it cannot substitute its own assessment of the situation for that of an officer who was required to react in the heat of the moment to avert an honestly perceived danger to his life or the lives of others..... The officers found themselves confronted by a man who emerged in the doorway with two guns and who had shot at the police on several occasions during the two-day siege. Whether the guns had pointed outwards when J. had become visible in the doorway was not established. What is decisive for the Court is that J. emerged from the house heavily armed. J. had ignored previous warnings to give himself up and, in defiance of these warnings, he had fired numerous shots in the air and at the police officers. He conveyed on occasions a clear impression that he would continue to use his gun. It is to be noted that he earlier warnings for him to surrender went unheeded. Further, it is to be noted that it was not the intention of Senior Constables A. and L. to kill J., but to immobilise him by wounding him. However, given the restricted sector of fire and the fact that J. was crouching at the critical moment one of the shots proved to be fatal.
For the Court, the use of firearms in the circumstances of the case,
albeit highly regrettable given the lethal consequences, was not disproportionate and did not exceed what was absolutely necessary to avert what was honestly perceived by the police officers to be a real and immediate risk to the lives of their colleagues.
The Court further observed that
the use of firearms by the police as well as the conduct of police operations of the kind in issue were regulated by domestic law and that a system of adequate and effective safeguards existed to prevent arbitrary use of lethal force. In the instant case, none of the key officers concerned operated in a vacuum. They were all trained in the use of firearms and their movements and actions were subject to the control and supervision of experienced senior officers....
The Court held unanimously that there had been no violation of the right to life under the European Convention.