Last Updated: Monday, 11 December 2017, 15:40 GMT

Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Finland

Publisher Child Soldiers International
Publication Date 2004
Cite as Child Soldiers International, Child Soldiers Global Report 2004 - Finland, 2004, available at: [accessed 11 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Republic of Finland

Covers the period from April 2001 to March 2004.

Population: 5.2 million (1.1 million under 18)
Government armed forces: 27,000
Compulsory recruitment age: 18
Voluntary recruitment age: 18
Voting age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 10 April 2002
Other treaties ratified (see glossary): CRC, GC AP I and II, ICC, ILO 138, ILO 182

There were no reports of under-18s in the armed forces.


The length of alternative civilian service remained punitive at 395 days, compared with 180 days in most cases for regular military service. During 2001-2003, over 20 conscientious objectors who refused to carry out alternative service were imprisoned, in most cases sentenced to 197 days' imprisonment.1


National recruitment legislation and practice

Conscription is provided for under the 2000 constitution, along with provisions on the right to exemption on grounds of conscience (section 127).2 Men are liable for compulsory military service from the beginning of the year they are 18 until the end of the year they turn 60. Women have been able to volunteer for military service from the age of 18 since 1995. In general, military service is done within two years following call-up at the age of 19 or 20.3

Entry into the armed forces below the age of 18, including on a voluntary basis, is prohibited under a 2000 amendment to the Conscription Act, which also made the use of under-18s in hostilities a possible war crime under the Penal Code.4


Under section 120 of the constitution, the Ahvenanmaa (Åland) Islands are a self-governing area. Citizens of this area are exempt from military service.

Military training

Voluntary national defence training is organized by the National Defence Training Association, established in 1999. It trains volunteer men and women for skills needed in times of war or crisis, and complements the training of conscripts.5


Government proposals for reforms to the armed forces were approved by parliament in December 2001. The wartime strength of the army is to be reduced from around 490,000 men and women to 350,000 by 2009.6

International standards

Finland ratified the Optional Protocol on 10 April 2002. The accompanying declaration confirmed that "the minimum age for any recruitment of persons into its national armed forces is 18 years".7

1 Amnesty International Reports 2002, 2003 and 2004,

2 Constitution (731/1999), at Ministry of Justice,

3 Facts about the Finnish Defence Forces 2003,

4 Law 364/2000, Amendment to Conscription Act, according to a communication from the Information Division of Defence Command, 16 March 2004.

5 Finnish Defence Forces, Training portal,

6 Finnish Security and Defence Policy 2001, VNS 2/2001 vp, Government report to parliament, 13 June 2001,

7 Declarations and reservations to the Optional Protocol,

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