The legal culture of protecting fundamental rights and human rights has faced changes in phases as a result of accession to the European Convention on Human Rights. A new cross-scientific doctoral research of M.Pol.Sc, MA Virpi Koivu indicates, however, that the transition of legal culture is still not complete.
Virpi Koivu has studied in her doctoral research the reception of the
argumentation of the European Court of Human Rights in the Finnish legal
culture. She has analysed the discourse of the Finnish Supreme Court
and Supreme Administrative Court in the light judgments relating to the
application of the European Convention on Human Rights. According to
Koivu, details in the argumentation of the courts reflect changes in the
human rights culture.
"The style of argumentation of the Finnish supreme jurisdictions in
that respect has partly changed and appears to be still changing.
Although the legal culture is still undergoing transition, the
protection of fundamental rights and human rights has already clearly
strengthened as a result of changes in judgments in terms of both
quantity and quality", says Koivu.
According to Koivu, there are also several other factors that have had
an impact on a stronger legal culture of protecting fundamental rights
and human rights, including in particular changes in legislation,
changes of political attitudes and increasing awareness in general.
The doctoral thesis falls within the fields of international law,
constitutional law and legal linguistics. The legal culture is delimited
in the research to cover the legal framework, i.e. human rights
conventions and constitutional provisions on fundamental rights, and the
related case law of the European Court of Human Rights and Finnish
Changes in three phases
Virpi Koivu argues that the protection of human rights in the Finnish
legal system has changed in three phases as a result of accession to the
European Convention on Human Rights. The first phase consists of those
changes that were needed in the legal system and legislation to make the
accession possible and as a result of the accession.
In the second phase, the legal culture has undergone changes as a result
of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights, giving a more
precise meaning to the provisions of the Convention. In the third phase,
the transition of the protection of fundamental rights and human rights
depends on how the national courts apply the European Convention on
Human Rights and the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.
When compared with a number of other States used as sources of
reference, Finland acceded to the Convention late. Thus, there was
plenty of case law of the European Court of Human Rights available at
the moment of accession, but that case law has continued to develop
along with new applications to the Court, including Finnish human rights
complaints. The European case law is binding on national legal systems
and thereby it shapes the protection of fundamental rights and human
Challenges faced by Finland
The number of judgments against Finland finding a violation of
Convention rights is relatively high compared e.g. with Germany, when
taking into account the smaller population and the late moment of
accession to the Convention. Different explanations may be sought for
this, including among others the relatively young traditions of
constitutional protection of fundamental rights when compared with
continental Europe, as well as different traditions of applying
A detailed list of rights was only included in the Constitution through
the fundamental rights reform of 1995. Before accession to the European
Convention on Human Rights, it was not customary for Finnish courts to
apply international human rights conventions. Nor has it been usual to
apply prior case law as a source of law, which is due to a strong
emphasis of the legal system on legislation.
However, the real meaning of human rights and fundamental rights depends
on how they are applied. According to Koivu, a more systematic and
detailed application of the case law of the European Court of Human
Rights by the Finnish supreme jurisdictions has brought about a
strengthened protection of fundamental rights and human rights.
Information on the public examination of the dissertation:
Virpi Koivu's doctoral thesis European Convention on Human Rights and
transition of the legal culture – Reception of the argumentation of the
European Court of Human Rights by the Finnish supreme jurisdictions
be publicly examined at the Faculty of Law, University of Lapland on
Friday 4 December 2015 at 12 noon in lecture room 2 (street address:
Yliopistonkatu 8, Rovaniemi). The Opponent will be Professor Janneke
Gerards from the Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands. The
Custos will be Professor emeritus Heikki E. S. Mattila from the
University of Lapland. Welcome!
Information on the doctoral candidate:
M.Pol.Sc, MA Virpi Koivu (born 1970) completed upper secondary school in
1989, and has obtained the degree of Master of Arts at the University
of Turku in 1997 and the degree of Master of Political Sciences at the
Åbo Akademi University in 2001.
The author has previously worked for the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in
duties relating to translation, international law and human rights, for
the Supreme Administrative Court in duties of a press officer and for
the Council of the European Union in Brussels in duties of a
The author works at present for the Ministry of the Interior.
Tel. +358 2 9548 8592
virkoivu (at) ulapland.fi
For press copies of the dissertation and sales, please contact Lapland
University Press, tel. +358 40 821 4242, publications (at) ulapland.fi
Sales of printed copies: Verkkokauppa Juvenes
Virpi Koivu: European Convention on Human Rights and transition of the
legal culture – Reception of the argumentation of the European Court of
Human Rights by the Finnish supreme jurisdictions
. Acta Universitatis
Lapponiensis 314. Lapland University Press. Rovaniemi. 2015. ISBN
978-952-484-859-6. ISSN 0788-7604. Electronic version (pdf): Acta
Electronica Universitatis Lapponiensis 182. ISBN (pdf)
978-952-484-860-2. ISSN 1796-6310.