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Human rights

By human rights is meant those basic rights to which all are entitled and which are safeguarded in international human rights conventions.

The human rights conventions which are binding on Finland were mainly drafted under the auspices of the United Nations or the Council of Europe.

UN human rights conventions

The most important of the UN treaties with a bearing on human rights are the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights from 1966, the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights from 1966 as well the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child from 1989.

Council of Europe conventions

The most central of the Council of Europe treaties are the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (European Human Rights Convention) from 1950 as well as the European Social Charter from 1961, revised in 1966.

European Union conventions

Protection of fundamental and human rights has also been developed within the European Union. The Treaty of Amsterdam, which came into force in 1999, confirmed the Union's commitment to the principles of freedom, democracy and the rule of law as well as to respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms. The special emphasis in that conjunction was on a general ban on discrimination and the social dimension of fundamental rights.

The European Union's Charter of Fundamental Rights was adopted at the European Council in Nice in December 2000. This Charter was enshrined in the draft European Constitution proposed by the Convention on the Future of Europe in summer 2003. The adoption of the Constitution would mean a formal strengthening of fundamental rights.

Oversight of observance of human rights conventions

Observance of international human rights conventions is also monitored by oversight bodies established specially for this purpose. The best-known of these is the European Court of Human Rights, which oversees compliance with the European Human Rights Convention.

Finnish policy on human rights

In Finland, national fundamental rights and international human rights complement each other to form a system of legal protection. The 1995 reform of the constitutional provisions concerning fundamental rights brought fundamental and human rights closer to each other with regard to both their contents and the ways in which they are interpreted and monitored.
At the same time, their direct applicability in courts and by other authorities was increased and the opportunities available to private persons to invoke their fundamental and human rights in situations of practical application of law were improved.

The areas of special emphasis in Finnish human rights policy relate to protection of women, children, minorities and indigenous peoples. Work to combat racism and promotion of non-discrimination are also central themes.

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