The European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations’ Committee
Against Torture have blocked several attempts by Finnish authorities to
repatriate asylum seekers who had been tortured in their home countries.
The most recent such case was last week, when a pregnant woman who
had fled the Democratic Republic of Congo after being tortured and raped
was refused a residence permit in Finland.
The Refugee Advice Centre says that the situation has come to a head.
Increasingly, Finnish officials, including the Supreme Administrative
Court, have felt that traumatised victims of torture can be sent back to
countries notorious for violating human rights, such as Iran or Congo.
The European Court of Human Rights and the Committee Against Torture
have issued four bans on the implementation of a deportation order.
Lawyers of the Finnish Refugee Advice Centre have said that in each of the
cases there has been a clear danger that the victim would again face
The Finnish Immigration Service recently noted that torture on its own is
not always a sufficient reason for asylum or a residence permit.
“The conditions of the home country of the applicant are taken into
consideration”, says the Immigration Service. The Immigration Service
points to situations in which conditions in the victim’s country of origin
have improved since the person has left.
The Refugee Advice Centre and the Centre for Torture Survivors in Finland
point out that some torture victims have been ordered to leave Finland
even though officials have not been able to demonstrate that conditions in
the country of origin actually had improved.
For instance, the human rights situation in Iran and the Democratic
Republic of Congo has actually deteriorated in recent years.
According to Marjaana Laine, the leading lawyer of the Refugee Advice
Centre, another problem is that officials do not always recognise victims
of torture, and their special predicaments are not taken into
consideration in decision-making.
“The gaps in our due process are leading to untenable situations. As
the decision-making involves assessments of whether or not a person is in
danger of being tortured or suffering some other inhumane treatment, it is
imperative that not a single wrong decision should be made.”
Victims of torture need treatment in safe conditions. Recovery from
serious traumas takes years.
In a joint statement, the Refugee Advice Centre and the Centre for
Torture Survivors in Finland say that sending a victim of torture to the
country where the torture took place often constitutes inhumane treatment
The issue of repatriating torture victims came up in a documentary film
directed by Marvi Junkkonen on four victims of torture. The hour-long film
was screened at the Docpoint film festival in Helsinki in January, and
will be televised on YLE TV1 at 21:30 on Monday evening.
(source: HELSINGIN SANOMAT)