Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Criminal damage of Finns Party's Helsinki office

The right to hold and express opinions without interference is a fundamental human right enshrined in international human rights standards, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Although international covenants bind states parties not individuals, the latter could learn a thing or two from the covenants -- many of which are incorporated into national laws. Vandalizing public or private property of political opponents or people who hold dissenting political views amounts to unlawful interference, and threatens civil and political freedom.

Vandals targeted the Helsinki office of the Perussuomalaiset (PS) political party. According to Yle, members of the party arrived at their office on 18 September to find windows shattered. An anonymous party claimed responsibility for the vandalism in a manifesto posted on an informal news site.

In the manifesto (in Finnish) which seeks to rationalize the vandalism, it is stated, amongst other things, that the economic recession has given impetus to right-wing populists and neo-Nazis across Europe, and the PS is one of those parties that take advantage of the economic uncertainty and offer naive solutions to society's problems -- by scapegoating immigrants, non-heterosexuals and feminists. And that the PS seeks to create a society that doesn't have room for everyone; a society modeled on the "white heterosexual man" and a "hierarchical nuclear family" as a basic social unit, under a "totalitarian government".

Furthermore, the strong-worded manifesto asserts that the PS has hard-line fascists in its ranks and that the party has made racism and hate speech acceptable. The manifesto calls for equality and for a society where everyone has equal power to make decisions on their lives and on the organization of society. According to the manifesto, the architects of the attack want to make things difficult for the PS in "concrete ways" and would use "direct actions" against the party and "other fascists".

In my view, the PS is, without a doubt, hostile to minorities, including immigrants, refugees, Muslims and homosexuals. High level members of the party, including its Members of Parliament and councillors make no secret of what they think of minority groups. Evidence to support this claim abound:
  • PS councillors in the city of Lieksa once demanded a Somali-free meeting room.
  • PS councillors in the same city blocked a proposal to accept nine refugee minors from Syria.
  • A councillor of the party once donated a clock with Nazi insignia to a right-wing extremist group in Vaasa.
  • Teuvo Hakkarainen, a Member of Parliament representing the party used the N-word to describe black Africans on his first day in parliament. He got away with it.
  • A parliamentary aide of the party suggested that minorities in Finland should be forced to wear armbands so that they could be easily identified by the police.
  • A PS councillor described refugees and asylum seekers as welfare leaches and rapists
  • Two MPs of the party, Jussi Halla-aho and James Hirvisaari (now expelled by the party) were convicted of ethnic agitation by Finnish courts.
 The list of misdeeds by PS members is long and inexhaustible.

However, I believe criminal damage of the party's office is an unacceptable act which amounts to assault on civil and political rights. The way I see it, the criminal act is counter productive since, in my view, it projects the PS as a victim of "political persecution" rather than portray it as what it is: a party that threatens equality -- a core value in Finnish and Nordic societies. Acts of vandalism targeting the party or its members, I believe, could help rather than hurt the PS in the polls thereby undermining the objective of the perpetrators as per the manifesto posted online.

Although I subscribe to the view that the PS scapegoats minorities and doesn't do enough to stamp out racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia from its ranks, or rein in its numerous members who fan flames of hate, I oppose unlawful acts against the party.

Violence begets more violence. Imagine a situation where PS members also start vandalizing property of opponents. Finland, I feel, would descend into chaos. It's on this premise that I oppose vandalism and any other unlawful act against the PS or any other legally recognized political party that operates within the ambit of Finnish law.

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