Seven conscientious objectors to military service were imprisoned; they were prisoners of conscience. Little coordinated action was taken to combat widespread violence against women.

Conscientious objection to military service

The length of alternative civilian service remained punitive and discriminatory. Conscientious objectors were obliged to perform 395 days of civilian service, 215 days longer than the usual military service. In addition, the option of alternative service was restricted to peacetime. Conscientious objectors imprisoned for refusing to do civilian service because of its punitive length were prisoners of conscience.

AI continued to urge the authorities to reduce the length of alternative civilian service in line with internationally recognized standards and recommendations. The Labour Minister proposed shortening the alternative service, but in June the government decided not to amend the law.

  • Seven conscientious objectors were known to have been imprisoned during the year. They received sentences of between 126 and 197 days for refusing to perform alternative civilian service. The length of their sentences equalled half of their remaining civilian service time.

Violence against women

Violence against women continued to be widespread. The last extensive study on the issue, conducted in 1998, showed that 40 per cent of women in Finland had been victims of physical or sexual violence or threats of violence by men, and 22 per cent of married women and women cohabiting with men had been victims of physical or sexual violence or threats of violence by their partner. The government failed to follow up effectively on a national project on the prevention of violence against women that was carried out between 1998 and 2002.

During 2005 AI and 18 other non-governmental organizations called for an inter-ministry action plan for the prevention of violence against women and submitted detailed recommendations. A reply received in February from the Prime Minister implied that there was no overall action plan but that the issue of violence against women was being included in other government programmes. In November AI reiterated its call for an overall action plan.

AI also conducted a survey of the work of Finnish municipalities on eradication of violence against women. It found that in general this work lacked political will, coordination, expertise and resources, although a few municipalities were doing pioneering work.

Unfair residence permit procedures

The immigration authorities reportedly refused to grant some residence permits solely on the basis of information provided by Finland's Security Police (Suojelupoliisi, SUPO). The applicants were not allowed to see the information, which they could therefore not contest.

  • Qari Muzaffar Iqbal Naeemi, a Pakistani national resident in Finland since May 1997, remained uncertain of his future. He had been denied a renewal of his residence permit in September 2002 and issued with a deportation order in March 2003 on the basis of secret information supplied by SUPO. In April, AI raised his case with the authorities, but it had still not been resolved by the end of the year.

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