Practice Relating to Rule 136. Recruitment of Child Soldiers
Finland’s Criminal Code (1889), as amended in 2008, provides that any person who “takes or recruits children below the age of 18 years into military forces or into groups in which they are used in hostilities” shall be “sentenced for a war crime
to imprisonment for at least one year or for life”.
(emphasis in original)
At the 27th International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in 1999, Finland pledged “to promote the adoption of national and international standards prohibiting the military recruitment … in armed conflicts of persons under 18 years of age”.
In 2003, in its fifth periodic report to the Human Rights Committee, Finland stated: “The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict entered into force for Finland on 1 July 1997.”
In 2003, in its third periodic report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, Finland stated:
517. Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict. The Optional Protocol took effect in Finland on 10 May 2002 (Treaty Series 31/2002). The Protocol concerns armed conflicts, for which Finland is prepared by means of compulsory military service. By virtue of the Conscription Act (452/1950), all Finnish men are liable for military service to be able to defend their country and the legal social order. The Act on Women’s Voluntary Military Service (194/1995) lays down provisions on the preconditions under which a woman can be accepted to do voluntary military service.
518. The minimum age of conscripts was lowered by an Act (364/2000) in May 2000. According to the amendment, a person is allowed to start also voluntary military service only after he or she has attained 18 years of age. A corresponding amendment has been made to the Act on Women’s Voluntary Military Service (365/2000). Consequently, persons who have not reached 18 years of age are not recruited to combat.
519. When the ratification instrument to the Protocol was deposited, Finland submitted a statement based on article 3, paragraph 2, of the Protocol that Finland requires that all persons recruited to serve in the national armed forces are at least 18 years of age and that the minimum age requirement applies to both men’s compulsory military service and women’s voluntary military service. Finland will submit its initial report on the implementation of the provisions of the Protocol in May 2004.
In 2004, in its initial report to the Committee on the Rights of Child under Article 8(1) of the 2000 Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, Finland stated:
II. INFORMATION RELATING TO ARTICLES 1–7 OF THE OPTIONAL PROTOCOL
Legislative measures to prohibit the involvement of children in direct hostilities
3. In Finnish legislation, the obligation to participate in national defence is laid down in the Constitution. According to section 127 of the Constitution of Finland (731/1999), every Finnish citizen is obligated to participate or assist in national defence, as provided by a legislative act. Chapter 7 (a) of the Military Service Act (1728/1991) lays down provisions on non-armed service, and a separate Civilian Service Act (1723/1991) has been issued concerning civilian service.
4. By virtue of section 1 of the Military Service Act, all Finnish men are liable for military service to defend their native country and the legal social order. The Act on Women’s Voluntary Military Service (194/1995) lays down provisions concerning the requirements that have to be met by women who want to do voluntary military service that corresponds to conscription. The minimum age of conscripts, stated in the Military Service Act, was amended by an Act (364/2000), according to which voluntary military service can also start when the person has attained 18 years of age (sect. 31). A similar amendment was made to section 1 of the Act on Voluntary Military Service for Women (365/2000).
5. Since a person must have attained 18 years of age before he/she can start conscript service or service on a voluntary basis, the Finnish Defence Forces do not have members aged under 18 years, as specified in article 1 of the Protocol. The full age of conscripts is ensured by a system, based on personal data obtained directly from the population register, according to which persons of a certain age group are called up. In the call-up, the person’s identity is checked either from an official identity card or by asking certain identifying questions, based on the information in the population register. A person’s identity is also verified at the start of military service.
6. In accordance with chapter 11, section 1, paragraph 3 (578/1995) of the Finnish Penal Code, a person who in an act of war violates the provisions of an international agreement binding on Finland or the generally acknowledged and established rules and customs of war under public international law, shall be sentenced for a war crime. By virtue of the Finnish Penal Code, recruitment of a person under the age of 18 years during hostilities would be deemed a war crime.
7. Finnish legislation does not allow, even in a state of emergency, the recruitment of persons under 18 years of age into the armed forces, as referred to in this article.
8. In Finland, the provisions concerning offence against a person’s liberty, issued in chapter 25 (578/1995) of the Penal Code, can be applied to possible cases of compulsory recruitment.
Minimum age for voluntary recruitment
9. In connection with the submission of the instruments of ratification, Finland deposited a declaration according to which it requires that all persons recruited in to the national armed forces must have reached at least 18 years of age and that the minimum age applies to both men’s compulsory military service and women’s voluntary military service.