Capital punishment in Finland
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As of 1823 in the Grand Duchy of Finland, death sentences were commuted to transportation to Siberia or life sentences. The last person to be executed in peacetime was Tahvo Putkonen, on July 8, 1825. The capital punishment was de facto abolished during the rest of the Czarist regime 1825–1917 in Finland.
The capital punishment was re-established in the Finnish Criminal Code in 1917 after the Independence Declaration. Death sentences were frequently handed down during the Finnish Civil War of 1918. Approximately 1,400–1,650 Whites and 7,000–10,000 Reds were executed by the opposing side. The executions were invariably carried out by firing squad.
During the Winter War and Continuation War approximately 550 death sentences were carried out, 455 (some ninety percent) of these were Soviet infiltrators, spies and saboteurs. The officer's right to execute soldiers refusing to obey commands or fleeing from combat was exercised only in 13 cases. The most famous case is the execution of conscientious objector Arndt Pekurinen in autumn 1941, who was also the penultimate Finn ever to be executed for civilian crimes (conscientious objection during wartime was considered high treason). As he declined taking a rifle and going to the front line, he was sentenced to death without trial for disobedience by his commanding officer, Captain Valkonen. Nobody in his battalion volunteered for the firing squad, and Captain Valkonen had to use threat of punishment to order a soldier, Corporal Asikainen, to shoot him. Pekurinen's death was widely considered a legalized murder by his service mates.
The last Finn to be executed for civilian crimes was Toivo "Kirves" (Axe) Koljonen, who killed a family of six with an axe in 1942. He was shot by a military police firing squad along with Soviet spies sentenced to death for espionage in 1943. The last woman executed in Finland was Martta Koskinen, shot for espionage and high treason in 1943. The last Finn to be executed for any crimes was Private Olavi Laiho, who was shot for desertion, high treason and espionage in Oulu, 2 September 1944. One day later a group of three Soviet infiltrators were shot, as the last persons to be executed in Finland.
In independent Finland, capital punishment for crimes committed in peacetime was abolished by law in 1949, and in 1972 it was abolished entirely. In addition, the current Constitution of Finland, adopted in 2000, —specifically Chapter 2, Section 7— prohibits capital punishment:
Jokaisella on oikeus elämään sekä henkilökohtaiseen vapauteen, koskemattomuuteen ja turvallisuuteen. Ketään ei saa tuomita kuolemaan, kiduttaa eikä muutoinkaan kohdella ihmisarvoa loukkaavasti. (in English: Everyone has the right to life, personal liberty, integrity and security. No one shall be sentenced to death, tortured or otherwise treated in a manner violating human dignity.)
In the 19th century and before, as in the other Nordic countries, beheading by axe was the most common method of execution. In the 20th century, firing squads were used. The official beheading axe of Finland is today on display at Museum of Crime, Vantaa.
Some notable lasts:
- Last person executed in peacetime in Finland: Tahvo Putkonen, 1825, beheaded with axe for murder
- Last person hanged in Finland: Taavetti Lukkarinen, 1916, at Oulu. He was hanged for high treason under Czarist Russian martial law. Instead of gallows, he was hanged in a pine tree. The tree is today protected as a memorial.
- Last person executed for a civilian crime in Finland: Toivo Koljonen, 1943, by firing squad for six murders.
- Last woman executed in Finland: Martta Koskinen, 1943, by firing squad for espionage and high treason.
- Last Finn executed: Private Olavi Laiho, 2 September 1944, by firing squad for desertion, espionage and high treason.
- Last person executed in Finland: a group of three Soviet infiltrators, 3 September 1944, by firing squad for espionage.
- This article is based on material found in the equivalent Finnish Wikipedia article, Kuolemanrangaistus.