CERD: Finland has violated the rights of Sámi guaranteed in the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination


The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) adopted an opinion on a matter concerning eligibility to Sámi electoral roll on 13 June 2022. The opinion was the first ever opinion by CERD, that concerned Finland.

The petitioners appealed against the Supreme Administrative Court rulings concerning eligibility to be included in the electoral roll in Sámi parliamentary elections. In its opinion, the Committee states that Finland has violated Article 5(c) of the Convention (political rights, in particular the right to vote and stand as a candidate in elections). The Committee considers that the Supreme Administrative Court’s rulings may have artificially modified the electoral constituency of the Sámi Parliament, affecting its capacity to truly represent the Sámi people and their interests. Consequently, the Supreme Administrative Court’s rulings, which departed without any apparent justification from the existing proper interpretation of the applicable law, have violated the petitioners’ right, as members of the Sámi indigenous people, to collectively determine the composition of the Sámi Parliament and take part in the conduct of public affairs, as protected by article 5(c) of the Convention.

The Committee found no violation of Article 5(a) (right to equal treatment in courts and other judicial organs) or (e) (economic, social and cultural rights).

The Committee recommends that Finland provide an effective remedy to the petitioners by urgently initiating a genuine negotiation for the review of section 3 of the Act on the Sámi Parliament. Finland needs to ensure that the criteria for eligibility to vote in Sámi Parliament elections are defined in a manner that respects the right of the Sámi people to provide a free, prior and informed consent on matters relating to their own membership and their political participation for the enjoyment and full realisation of other rights of indigenous communities, in particular their economic, social and cultural rights guaranteed, in accordance with Article 5 (c) and (e) of the Convention.

Read the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland’s press release here.

Read the CERD opinion here.