Human Rights Centre - Personnel

Name:

Sirpa Rautio

My place of work/post: 

Director of the Human Rights Centre, Chair of the Human Rights Delegation 

About me: 

I am a Master of Laws trained on the bench. I have served as the Director of the Human Rights Centre since 2012 and started my third term on 1 March 2020. 

I will serve as the Chair of the Management Board of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights until July 2020 when my five-year term ends. I represented the Human Rights Centre and the Finnish National Human Rights Institution in the Boards of the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI) and the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) between 2016 and 2019. I am currently serving as a member of the GANHRI Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, representing the Human Rights Centre. 

Before my return to Finland in 2012, I worked in the Nordic Trust Fund of the World Bank in Washington, and before that in human rights tasks in various international organisations. 

I have served in expert and managerial tasks in the Polish office of the UN Refugee Agency in Warsaw, in UN field operations in Sarajevo in the former Yugoslavia, in the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in Warsaw, in the Office of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights in Strasbourg, in the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), and in the Office of the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) in the Hague. Now, after more than eight years in Finland, I enjoy my work, in which I can use my experience and expertise that I have accumulated during my career. 

Special fields of my fundamental and human rights expertise and/or areas of interest:

Fundamental and human rights from a wide range of societal perspectives; relationship between the rule of law, democracy and human rights; international human rights organisations and the functioning of the human rights system; human rights as part of security, development, conflicts and crises.

Name:

Leena Leikas

My place of work/post: 

Expert at the Human Rights Centre and Deputy to the Director of the Centre, Secretary of the Human Rights Delegation, Chair of the ENNHRI Legal Working Group (since 2019).

About me: 

I am a Master of Laws trained on the bench. Expert at the Human Rights Centre since 2012. 

After court service and a stint in the Ministry of Justice’s Law Drafting Department where I dealt with EU issues involving criminal and procedural law, I moved to the Legal Department of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (now Legal Service). In this post, my tasks included drafting Finnish Government responses to appeals to the European Court of Human Rights, participation in negotiations and deliberations of working groups in the Council of Europe and the United Nations, and in periodic reporting. I have worked as a lawyer in the European Court of Human Rights, and in the Human Rights Review Panel’s liability and appeals mechanisms of the EU Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX). During my leave of absence, I served for about three years in the Council of Europe Secretariat as an expert on fundamental and human rights monitoring, national minorities and persons with disabilities. I have also accumulated substantial expertise on the justice and home affairs of the EU Council and data protection issues of the Council of Europe. 

Special fields of my fundamental and human rights expertise and/or areas of interest:

I possess expertise on the monitoring of fundamental and human rights, content of the international human rights system and national human rights structures and their development, as well as on the tools and actors involved. I have specialised in such issues as minorities and minority languages, indigenous rights, violence against women, rights of the persons with disabilities, and such topical themes as security, technology, privacy and climate issues.

Name:

Sanna Ahola

My place of work/post: 

Expert at the Human Rights Centre

About me: 

I am a Master of Laws by training. For many years, I worked as a lawyer in an organisation representing the interests of the persons with disabilities in tasks involving legal matters, lobbying and training. From there, I moved to the Ageing, Disability and Functioning Unit of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare where I worked as a special expert for a few years. Since spring 2019, I have served as an expert on the rights of the elderly at the Human Rights Centre.

Special fields of my fundamental and human rights expertise and/or areas of interest:

I am particularly interested in the manner in which individuals and population groups are able to enjoy fundamental and human rights. Social rights are important in this respect but the same also applies to traditional civil and political rights. 

Name:

Susan Villa

My place of work/post: 

Expert at the Human Rights Centre

About me: 

I have a Master of Social Sciences degree from the University of Tampere. I had international relations as my major subject and specialised in conflict research. In addition to my major studies, I also took a degree in journalism.

I started work at the Human Rights Centre in spring 2019. Before my current post, I worked as an expert and writer in my own company. In that work, I also dealt with a wide range of different fundamental and human rights issues, such as the international human rights policy, equality and corporate responsibility. I prepared reports, policy briefs and influencing strategies for ministries, companies and other organisations. I have also accumulated experience on organisational work: for many years, I served as the Communications Officer and General Secretary of the Finnish League for Human Rights. In the early part of my career, I worked in the Tampere Peace Research Institute in a project focusing on the conflict in the Middle East.

Writing and journalism have always been an integral part of my work. I have worked as a journalist, managing editor and chief editor in Finnish and international media. 

Special fields of my fundamental and human rights expertise and/or areas of interest:

At the moment, my focus is on the rights of the elderly and corporate human rights responsibility. I am interested in a wide range of fundamental and human rights issues, such as the international human rights policy, the human rights system, rule of law issues, corporate responsibility and media freedom.

Name:

Mikko Joronen 

My place of work/post: 

Expert at the Human Rights Centre 

About me: 

I am a Master of Social Sciences by training. 

I have focused on fundamental and human rights issues throughout my work history. After serving eight years in the Finnish League for Human Rights, I took up a post in the Office of the Ombudsman for Minorities. A few years later, the Office was given new tasks and became the Office of the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman. 

I have been working at the Human Rights Centre since 2016. 

Special fields of my fundamental and human rights expertise and/or areas of interest: 

Working jointly with the Parliamentary Ombudsman, I am managing a statutory special task involving the promotion, protection and monitoring of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). I am specifically responsible for promoting the rights of the persons with disabilities, national monitoring of the implementation of the convention’s obligations and reporting on the process, and engaging persons with disabilities and organisations representing them in the monitoring procedure. 

Throughout my work history, my focus has been on non-discrimination issues.

Name:

Katariina Huhta

My place of work/post:

Assistant at the Human Rights Centre

About me: 

I am a Bachelor of Business Administration and executive secretary by training. I started work at the Human Rights Centre on 24 April 2019.

Before that I was employed in a number of ministries as the secretary of their political leadership. At the Human Rights Centre, I am able to use and expand my expertise and networks. 

Special fields of my fundamental and human rights expertise and/or areas of interest:

In the past, my work was practically oriented but at the Human Rights Centre, I have been able to expand my core expertise by familiarising myself with the implementation and monitoring of children’s rights. My other responsibilities at the Human Rights Centre include administrative matters and taking part in the organisation of events.

Name:

Emmi Kupiainen

My place of work/post: 

Assistant expert at the Human Rights Centre.

About me: 

I hold a Master of Laws (LL.M) degree in International Law from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Before my graduation in November 2019, I lived in the Hague where I studied international and European law, specialising in international public law and human rights. I started work at the Human Rights Centre in May 2020, which means that I am the newest member of the team. Extensive monitoring of human rights and reporting on them are part of my work. 

I have also worked in the Central Finland District Court and carried out projects for the Human Rights Centre as an independent expert.

Special fields of my fundamental and human rights expertise and/or areas of interest:

I am interested in the range of tools used in the national implementation of the international human rights system. I am particularly interested in the impacts of climate change on human rights in Finland and globally. 

Name:

Maija Hirvi

My place of work/post:

Associate expert at the Human Rights Centre

About me:

I hold a Master of Laws degree from the University of Helsinki from where I graduated in Summer 2020. I also have a Bachelor of Arts degree with French philology as my major subject. I started working at the Human Rights Centre in February 2021 and before that I already carried out assignments as a consultant for the Human Rights Centre. I have previous experience from the Council of Europe, the Embassy of Finland in Brussels, the migration department at the Ministry of the Interior and the research service at the Parliamentary Office. My background also includes exchange studies at the University of Geneva and teaching French and Spanish at a Finnish school.

Special fields of my fundamental and human rights expertise and/or areas of interest:

At the Human Rights Centre I work with questions related to the rule of law both nationally and through international cooperation. Apart from the rule of law questions I am interested amongst others in the fulfilment of fundamental and human rights in the society, the protection of human rights in counterterrorism, the legal praxis of the European Court of Human Right and fundamental and human rights education as well as migration.

Name:

Maria Fagerholm

My place of work/tasks:

Expert at the Human Rights Centre

About me:

I have graduated from Åbo Akademi University with a master’s degree in Social Sciences. I majored in International Law, but my degree includes studies in International Organizations, Sociology and Political Science. I also have a Bachelors’ degree in French philology. 

I am currently doing a job swap at the Human Rights Centre. Normally, I work as an Adviser for International Affairs at the International Department of the Parliament of Finland. My main task is to act as co-secretary to the Finnish delegations in the Parliamentary Assemblies of the Council of Europe and the OSCE. I focus mainly on questions related to migration, equality and freedoms of speech and the media. In the OSCE I focus on issues related to the human dimension and election observation. In my job I also follow developments in the UK, Ireland and Japan. Before my career in Parliament, I worked as a Political Officer at British Embassy Helsinki. I have also worked at the Office of the President of the Republic of Finland, the Permanent Representation of Finland to the Council of Europe and with questions related to humanitarian law at the Finnish Red Cross. At the beginning of my career, I did an internship at Kehys ry.

Languages are a special interest of mine and I have studied several languages over the years. At the moment, I study Russian and in addition to being fluent in Finnish and Swedish I am also fluent in English and French. I have also studied German and Spanish for many years. I have been able to use my language skills in previous jobs and in my current position.

Special skills and interests in the field of Human Rights:

In my work I follow issues related to business and Human Rights. I am also interested in Human Rights issues related to democracy and the rule of law, artificial intelligence, violence against women, freedom of speech and media freedom.

Name

Elina Hakala

My place of work/tasks:

Expert at the Human Rights Centre

Background:

I am a Master of Social Sciences by training. I have worked at the Finnish Human Rights Centre from 2013 to 2019 and again since 2021.

In the Centre, I have been tasked with various duties, including coordination of the Centre’s European and international activities, human rights communication and monitoring the implementation of fundamental and human rights in Finland. From 2014 to 2016 I served as the Secretary of the Human Rights Delegation. Since March 2021, I am conducting a study on selected fundamental and human rights actors in Finland that focuses on the current state of the Finnish human rights architecture and will provide recommendations for its development.

From 2019 and 2021 I worked as the Human Rights and Gender Trainer for European Union CSDP mission in Mali .

Special fields of my fundamental and human rights expertise and/or areas of interest:

functioning and development of the national human rights system; cooperation between different fundamental and human rights actors; human rights communication; human rights and security.