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.
States have the primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute ICC [International Criminal Court] crimes. ICC is a court of last resort. Ideally, it should have no cases. We must, however, acknowledge that for many States there is a lack of resources and capacity to exercise criminal law proceedings for such complex and large-scale crimes as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. …
… Victims of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocides, wherever they are found, deserve justice. While we must do our best to encourage all States to live up to their obligations to investigate and prosecute, the International Criminal Court was created to take up the cases when States were not able or willing to do so.
We must continue to work against impunity for serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights; persons suspected of war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity must be held accountable. Each state has a duty and a responsibility to investigate and prosecute such crimes. It is primarily at the domestic level that solutions to the impunity gap must be found. The International Criminal Court is a court of last resort and is of great importance to uphold international humanitarian law and human rights law and to end impunity for mass atrocity crimes.
Women and especially girls are particularly exposed to violence in conflict. Violence against women affects a third of all women globally. The violence is often amplified in areas affected by conflict. …
The fight against impunity for sexual and gender-based violence is … crucial. Each state has a duty and a responsibility to investigate and prosecute such crimes. It is primarily at the domestic level that solutions to the impunity gap must be found.
[T]here is still a lack of accountability for violations of international law committed against children in armed conflict. The fight against impunity and assuring the victims’ access to justice are crucial. Crimes against children must be independently and impartially investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Individual responsibility must be upheld and this means that all perpetrators must be held accountable and punished accordingly, regardless of their status or capacity.
In 2006, in a report to the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the UN Security Council, Finland stated:
The Finnish legal provisions on granting asylum comply with the Geneva Refugee Convention. Asylum is not granted if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the alien has committed a crime against peace, war crime or crime against humanity as defined by international agreements. Asylum is not granted either if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the alien has committed a serious non-political crime, or an act which violates the aims and principles of the United Nations.