UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination adopted an opinion on a matter concerning eligibility to Sámi electoral roll
On 13 June 2022, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) adopted an opinion on a matter concerning the right to be included in the electoral roll in Sámi parliamentary elections.
The petitioners appealed against the Supreme Administrative Court rulings of 30 September 2015 and 13 January 2016 concerning eligibility to be included in the electoral roll in Sámi parliamentary elections. The petitioners considered that by including persons on the Sámi Parliament electoral roll who have not been recognized as Sámi by the Electoral Board, the rulings have promoted the inclusion of individuals who are not fully committed to the defence of indigenous Sámi rights. The petitioners considered that the Supreme Administrative Court’s rulings have violated the obligations under Article 1 (racial discrimination), under Article 5(a) (right to equal treatment in courts and other judicial organs), under Article 5(c) (political rights, in particular the right to vote and stand as a candidate in elections), and under Article 5(e) (economic, social and cultural rights) of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
In its opinion, the Committee states that Finland has violated Article 5(c) of the Convention on the political rights of the petitioners, in particular the right to participate in elections – to vote and to stand for election – on the basis of universal and equal suffrage, the right to take part in the Government and the conduct of public affairs at any level, and the right to have equal access to public service. It states that in at least 53 out of its 93 rulings, the Supreme Administrative Court had included a new voter on the electoral roll based on an “overall consideration” without demonstrating that they fulfilled one of the objective criteria laid down in section 3 of the Act on the Sámi Parliament.
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) or (e).
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 with a view to ensuring 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.
The Committee’s decision is appended to this press release.