Support for the Rule of Law is a central theme running horizontally throughout all activities of the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs. It is also an important tool for achieving the goals of the Ministry.
In Finnish development policy and cooperation, support for the Rule of Law emphasises the creation of democratic and responsible societies which promote human rights. Under the Rule of Law, people can participate in their own development and decision making which affects their own lives.
The United Nations defines the Rule of Law as a principle of governance in which everyone is accountable to and equal before the law. This means the law is the same for everyone, and equal and effective access to justice must be safeguarded for all. The guiding principle of the Rule of Law is that all human rights must be respected and guaranteed for everyone.
Currently, the Foreign Ministry is involved in supporting the Rule of Law in such sectors as: Women, peace, and security; Access to justice in particular for easily marginalized or vulnerable groups; Post-conflict development with particular attention to victims of conflict and Rule of Law aspects in security sector reforms; Ending impunity for the most serious crimes of concern to the international community; and strengthening International Courts and justice.
Finland will organize a side-event on women’s access to justice during the High Level Segment of the 67th UN General Assembly in New York in September.
Finland cooperates with the UN, EU, Council of Europe, OSCE, and the World Bank to support Rule of Law. In addition, Finland supports Rule of Law programmes in various countries, such as Afghanistan, Kenya, Laos and Nepal.
Gender Perspective in the Rule of Law
Concerning women, peace, and security, Finland supports the implementation of UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 which calls for the inclusion of a gender perspective when dealing with the special needs of women and girls during repatriation and resettlement, rehabilitation, reintegration, and post-conflict reconstruction.
Finland also provides financial support to the UN Team of Experts on the Rule of Law and Sexual Violence in Conflict, which has experts from UNDP (UN Development Programme), DPKO (UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations), and OHCHR (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights).
Finland supports activities which seek to provide individuals and groups that are in easily marginalized or vulnerable situations with access to justice and better information about their rights. Finland also emphasises the situation of victims during peace talks and wants to make sure that human rights and the Rule of Law are respected.
In 2011, the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs launched a program “Equal before the Law: Access to Justice”, which aims both at strengthening links between international norms and national law and improving the way national laws are experienced by vulnerable citizens in Central Asia. In line with the Finnish development policy, the program is focused on promoting the rights and equality of women and girls and the rights of people who are easily excluded, particularly children at risk and persons with disabilities. Targeting interventions simultaneously at the state and citizen levels will ensure that the program delivers concrete results in the lives of vulnerable people while assisting governments in the region to meet the needs of citizens and fulfil obligations under international conventions. At the grassroots level, it aims to reach more than 100.000 people through legal consultations, outreach activities and community-based trainings.
The Venice Commission experts are providing training of best practices related to the implementation of the international conventions. The Conference of Central Asian Ombudsmen arranged in Helsinki in March 2012 is a part of the regional activities within the program, which has a budget of 5 million Euros for 30 months.
Security and Justice Sector reforms in fragile states and states recovering from conflict include a broader Rule of Law support approach. This kind of reforms are not just about strengthening the effectiveness of key security sector actors and institutions, such as the army, police, justice system, prisons, and border guards. They are also concerned with ensuring the capability of the security sector to carry out its responsibilities, and they contain the promotion of good governance as part of the foundation of a strong, secure society.
The principles of preventing impunity for the most serious international crimes, such as genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and ensuring that all perpetrators of such crimes are punished form the core of the Finnish support for the Rule of Law. Ending impunity and prosecuting those responsible, including for crimes of sexual and other violence against women and girls, is one of the main elements of UNSCR 1325. This is what Finland emphasises in its foreign policy, including development policy.
One of the primary channels for the Finnish Foreign Ministry support for the Rule of Law at the international level is through the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is an independent international tribunal funded primarily by its States Parties. This Court is governed by the Rome Statute. Its seat is at The Hague in the Netherlands.
The jurisdiction of the ICC is complementary: the primary responsibility to investigate and prosecute for the Rome Statute crimes lies with states themselves. It is however not always possible to investigate and prosecute for such crimes at the national level. In these situations the ICC has an important role in fulfilling the gap at the international level. It is also consistent with the Statute that the international community recognizes the role of national proceedings. To this end, states should provide assistance to strengthen the rule of law structures at the national level, which would support the national implementation of the Rule of Law. Finland also promotes the ratification of the Rome Statute worldwide.
Finland gives as well support to the activities of other international tribunals such as the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia and the completion of the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Finland’s financial contribution for ending impunity for the most serious international crimes reaches some 500 000 Euros every year.
In fighting impunity, Finland emphasises the rights and status of victims of the ICC crimes. It is important to ensure that the voices of the victims are heard in the Court proceedings. Finland also supports the work of the Victims’ Trust Fund of the ICC, which has a central role in efforts to bring justice to the victims.
A strong international justice system is an important component in maintaining peace and security. In the fight against terrorism, Finland underlines that all measures against terrorism must comply with international law, including human rights law, humanitarian law and refugee law.