Sami Indigenous Peoples’ right persistently violated, report says

  • Post last modified:May 22, 2024
  • Reading time:6 mins read

Two new reports have spotlighted the systemic violation of Sami Indigenous rights across Northern Europe.

First, Sweden’s authorities published a scathing report on hate crimes against the Sami community in the Scandinavian country. Now, Finland has also released the findings of a damning new report on rights violations of its Sami Indigenous community.

Both underscore the ongoing battle for Indigenous rights in Europe, against a backdrop of human rights abuses worldwide.

Abuse of Sami Indigenous community

The Sami people live in the northern part of the Scandinavian Peninsula, and across the Kola Peninsula. Their communities span Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Russia.

According to the International Working Group on Indigenous Affairs (IWGIA), their total population is somewhere between 50,000 to 100,000.

On 10 May, the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention (Brå) released its first report on hate crimes against the Sami community on a national level.

As Radio Canada reported:

The deliberate targeting of reindeer in Sami areas is one example that sets these incidents apart from typical hate crime patterns, the report said, with perpetrators— often landowners, hunters or farmers—believing they are limited by reindeer herding rights and don’t want the animals in certain areas.

It was the most common crime we saw in the police reports, Lisa Wallin, the study’s project leader, told Eye on the Arctic. “We saw deliberate hit-and-runs, dogs sent to chase or attack reindeer, or reindeer deliberately run over by snowmobiles or shot.”

These incidents usually happen in remote forested areas of northern Sweden and remain unsolved given the lack of eye-witnessesses, the report said.

Moreover, Radio Canada detailed how the report revealed that institutions subject Sami to “increased racist incidents”. Specifically, it identified this in the context of legal proceedings on Indigenous rights.

Truth and reconciliation

Following this, Finnish authorities have since produced a similar report exposing rights violations.

On 20 May, the Sami Truth and Reconciliation Commission dropped its report on the situation for the Indigenous group across Finland.

The government had established the commission in 2021. Specifically, it sought to investigate historical injustices against the Sami, with the aim of preventing their reoccurence.

Crucially, the report noted that the Finnish state continues to repeatedly violate the Sami people’s right to self-determination. This is at the core of indigenous people’s rights.

Martin Scheinin is a human rights professor who compiled the report. He told a press conference that:

In the Supreme Administrative Court, Sami rights have been given a cold shoulder in many respects

Significantly, he noted how regression had occurred over the past decade. Moreover, the report stated that:

Although Finland is still recognised in the UN as a supporter of indigenous rights, positive developments for the Sami people in Finland seem to have stalled or become less consistent

Electoral rights under threat

Sweden is home to over 20,000 Sami people. Meanwhile, some 10,000 Indigenous Sami live in Finland, speaking three different Sami languages.

In 1997, the Swedish parliament acknowledged the Sami. Similarly, since 1995, the Finnish constitution has recognised the Sami as an Indigenous people with a right to maintain and develop their culture.

However, the commission’s report showed how Indigenous rights are still under threat. For instance, Scheinin highlighted that the Finnish Supreme Administrative Court has since 2011 rejected the Sami parliament’s view on who qualifies as eligible to stand and vote in Sami parliamentary elections.

Finland’s legal definition of who can be included in the Sami electoral roll has been deemed outdated by human rights experts. Notably, this is because it does not correspond with the Sami parliament’s own view of eligibility. Specifically, Sami parliament emphasises a person’s connection to one of the Sami languages as the most important criteria.

Next year, Sweden will release a similar report from its truth commission into Sami Indigenous rights.

Green colonialism

Additionally, courts have “rejected the Sami view and often even failed to investigate complaints” in other cases too. In particular, it has done so in cases concerning the Sami people’s traditional livelihoods such as fishing and reindeer herding and plans for new industrial projects in Sapmi – the Sami Indigenous territory.

Crucially, governments and companies have been ramping up green colonialist projects on Sami Indigenous lands across the region. For instance, Norway’s supreme court ruled that wind farms in Sami lands breached their rights under international conventions.

Meanwhile the race for transition minerals – the raw critical materials for the energy transition – has exposed the Sami to more threats. In 2023, Sweden’s state-owned mining company LKAB discovered more than 1 million tonnes of critical minerals under Sami lands. The community now fears this could lead to violations of their rights.

Feature image via Al Jazeera – Youtube

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

Source link