Population: 5.3 million (1.1 million under 18)
Government Armed Forces: 29,300
Compulsary Recruitment Age: 18
Voluntary Recruitment Age: 18
Voting Age: 18
Optional Protocol: ratified 10 April 2002
Other Treaties: GC AP I, GC AP II, CRC, ILO 138, ILO 182, ICC
There were no reports of under-18s in the armed forces.
National recruitment legislation and practice
Section 127 of the constitution (731/1999) required all Finnish citizens to play a role in the country's defence. Section 1 of the Military Service Act of 1991 obliged all Finnish men to perform military service. Women wishing to do voluntary military service of a complementary nature were permitted to do so under the terms of the 1995 Act on Voluntary Women's Service. With regard to the overall structure of national defence, provisions for non-armed service were also included in the 1991 Military Service Act, while civilian service was organized in accordance with the 1991 Civilian Service Act. All men and women had to be at least 18 before they could be conscripted or volunteer for service in the Finnish Defence Forces, even in a state of emergency. Recruitment of any person under the age of 18 in a situation of armed conflict was classified as a war crime in the Finnish Penal Code.1 Conscripts usually completed military service at the age of 19 or 20, although entry into the armed forces was possible between the ages of 18 and 29.2 While a civilian alternative to compulsory military service was offered to conscientious objectors, the length of the service (395 days) was 215 days longer than military service and could therefore be considered punitive. During 2006 Amnesty International reported on the cases of 11 imprisoned conscientious objectors whom the organization considered to be prisoners of conscience.3
Military training and military schools
In its June 2004 initial report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child concerning implementation of the Optional Protocol, the government stated that there were no schools operated or controlled by the Finnish Defence Forces.4
In March 2004 the government's human rights policy as expressed in its initial report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child on the Optional Protocol specifically mentioned the special protection needs of children in situations of armed conflict.5
The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) noted in October 2005 that "the State party is a country of destination of asylum-seeking and migrant children coming from war-torn countries who may have been victims of traumatic experiences".6
At a February 2007 ministerial meeting in Paris, Finland and 58 other states endorsed the Paris Commitments to protect children from unlawful recruitment or use by armed forces or armed groups and the Paris Principles and guidelines on children associated with armed forces or armed groups. The documents reaffirmed international standards and operational principles for protecting and assisting child soldiers and followed a wide-ranging global consultation jointly sponsored by the French government and UNICEF.
1 Initial report of Finland to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on implementation of the Optional Protocol, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPAC/FIN/1, 10 March 2005.
3 Amnesty International Report 2007.
4 Initial report, above note 1.
6 Committee on the Rights of the Child, Consideration of report submitted by Finland on implementation of the Optional Protocol, Concluding observations, UN Doc. CRC/C/OPAC/FIN/CO/1, 21 October 2005.