The Human Rights Centre gave another statement on the European Court of Human Rights' forced medicine judgment – the Council of Europe's Department for the Execution of Judgments visited Finland due to delays in execution of judgments

Feb 6, 2023

The Human Rights Centre discussed with representatives of the Department for the Execution of Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights about Finland's delays in the national execution of judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). In particular, X. v. Finland, which concerns remedies for forced medication, calls for swift legislative action.

The Council of Europe’s Execution Department visited Finland at the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The visit to Finland was the Department’s first. The Execution Department, among other things, prepares decision proposals for the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers, which is responsible for monitoring of the execution of ECtHR judgments, and advises member states on issues related to execution of judgments. During the two-day visit, representatives of the Execution Department met, in addition to the Human Rights Centre, with officials from ministries, the supreme courts and independent guardians of the law.

Finland currently has 18 ECtHR judgments pending execution. The number is higher than in the other Nordic countries combined. Many of the judgments have been pending execution for more than a decade, and the oldest for 17 years. Nine of the judgments pending execution in Finland are so-called leading cases, which highlight new structural or systematic problems.

In 2021, the Human Rights Centre asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for information regarding the delays in the national execution of the judgments of the ECtHR and decisions of the European Committee for Social Rights. The unreasonable delays are not consistent with Finland's human rights obligations, human rights policies or Finland's strong support for the Council of Europe.

The ECtHR's judgment X v. Finland shows that Finland has insufficient legal remedies in cases of forced medication treatment

X. v. Finland was discussed in the meeting between the Human Rights Centre and the Council of Europe's Execution Department. The judgment given in 2012 concerns, among other things, the forced medication of a patient in a psychiatric hospital and the lack of effective legal remedies. In the case, the ECtHR found that there was a lack of effective legal remedies, as the medication given against the patient's will was based on the doctor's treatment decision, which cannot be appealed or its appropriateness investigated.

The execution of X. v. Finland requires completely new national legislation that defines the patient's possibilities to appeal the prescription of forced medication. Execution has already taken more than 10 years, which is why the Committee of Ministers placed the judgment under enhanced supervision in December 2021. The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health announced in early autumn 2022 that the government proposal on “clarification of the regulation of legal remedies for involuntary medication” will not be passed during this governmental period, because the feedback received during the consultation round requires further preparation.

Two new similar complaints are also currently pending at the European Court: E.S. v. Finland and H.H. v. Finland

The Human Rights Centre has issued statements regarding X. v. Finland on 21.10.2021 and again on 27.1.2023. Rule 9 of the Committee of Ministers rules for the supervision of the execution of judgments gives National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs) the opportunity to submit statements to the Committee of Ministers regarding the monitoring of the execution of ECtHR judgments.

In its latest statement from January (attached below), the Human Rights Centre criticized that the execution of X. v. Finland has been delayed again, as the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health announced that the government proposal will not be presented during this governmental period. The Human Rights Centre also underlined in its opinion that an appealable written decision should be made regarding regularly administered involuntary drug treatment. In order to secure the patient's legal protection, the condition for obtaining a written decision should be the lack of expressed consent rather than opposition of treatment.

The matter will next be considered by the Committee of Ministers in March 2023. If a solution regarding effective remedies for involuntary drug treatment is not reached soon, the Committee of Ministers may decide to issue an interim resolution in which the Committee expresses its serious concern about the delays. This would be a blow to Finland's reputation as a country that is cooperative and respects human rights.