Practice Relating to Rule 158. Prosecution of War Crimes
Finland’s Revised Penal Code (1995), in a chapter dealing with “War crimes and offences against humanity”, provides:
Any person who in an act of war
(1) uses a prohibited means of warfare or weapon;
(2) abuses an international symbol designated for the protection of the wounded and sick; or
(3) otherwise violates the provisions of an international agreement on warfare 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.
Finland’s Criminal Code (1889), as amended to 2008, states:
Section 5 - War crime
(1) A person who in connection with a war or other international or domestic armed conflict or occupation in violation of the Geneva conventions on the amelioration of the condition of the wounded and sick in armed forces in the field, the amelioration of the condition of wounded, sick and shipwrecked members of armed forces at sea, the treatment of prisoners of war or the protection of civilian persons in time of war (Treaties of Finland 8/1955, Geneva conventions) or the additional amendment protocols … to the Geneva Conventions, on the protection of victims of international armed conflicts and the protection of victims of non-international armed conflicts (Treaties of Finland 82/1980, I and II protocols) or other rules and customs of international law on war, armed conflict of occupation, [commits one of the offences enumerated in Section 5(1)],
shall be sentenced for a war crime
to imprisonment for at least one year or for life.
[emphasis in original]
In 2003, in its fifth periodic report to the Human Rights Committee, Finland stated with reference to the “punishment of acts constituting crimes under international law”:
Section 8 of the Finnish Constitution does not contain a provision corresponding to paragraph 2 in Article 15 of the Covenant [on Civil and Political Rights], providing for a possibility of punishment of acts or omissions that were, at the time of their commission, criminal according to the general principles of law recognized by the community of nations. This has not been considered necessary because the Finnish Penal Code establishes as criminal offences most acts which are considered international crimes, and for the reason that the Geneva Conventions of 1949 have been implemented by acts of Parliament and are thereby applicable law in Finland.
In 2004, in a report to Parliament on the human rights policy of Finland, Finland stated: “The prevention of impunity in cases of serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law is among the Finnish Government’s priorities in the field of international law.”
The report also states:
If the state institutions have collapsed, or the state authorities themselves are actively involved in the terror against civilian populations, the responsibility for the protection of civilians may be considered to shift to the international community. This responsibility may entail an armed intervention to stop continuing bloodshed, or to prevent a threat thereof, military or civil crisis management, or prosecution of persons guilty of serious international crimes.
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:
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.