Minister of Finance Riikka Purra (PS) spoke to reporters in the Parliament House in Helsinki on 28 November 2023. Purra suggested last month in a blog post that the government should disregard the views of the deputy chancellor of justice, the institution overseeing the legality of government actions, regarding its plan to close the entire eastern border. (Antti Aimo-Koivisto – Lehtikuva)

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PRESIDENT of the Supreme Administrative Court (KHO) Kari Kuusiniemi has expressed his concern about the criticism lawmakers levelled at Deputy Chancellor of Justice Mikko Puumalainen.

The Finnish government last week decided to close the eastern border for passenger traffic, making it impossible for migrants to apply for international protection at the border. It sought to close the border also a week earlier but scrapped the measure after consulting with the deputy chancellor of justice and concluding that there was no legal justification for the measure.

Some Finns Party lawmakers subsequently levelled severe criticism at Puumalainen.

Mauri Peltokangas (PS), the chairperson of the Administration Committee, demanded that the draft decision be presented instead to Chancellor of Justice Tuomas Pöysti. Sheikki Aalto (PS) called for the sacking of Puumalainen. Minister of Finance Riikka Purra (PS) argued in a blog that the government should proceed with the closure in spite of the rebuttal of the deputy chancellor of justice.

The primary duty of the chancellor of justice is to oversee the legality of government activities.

Kuusiniemi on Thursday reminded in a speech that the division of power is one of the key principles of any rule-of-law state.

“I consider it extremely alarming that political actors question this sensitive balance in the rule-of-law state on casual grounds,” he was quoted saying by Helsingin Sanomat. “It’s very dangerous to demand that a judicial reviewer be sacked if his views don’t satisfy political decision-makers or the presumed public opinion. I really do hope that we can put an end to this kind of talk.”

He added that the constitutional right of elected lawmakers to express themselves includes the right to criticise decisions based on facts.

“Questioning the basic principles of the division of power, by contrast, will contribute to eroding trust in the rule of law,” he warned. “The pressure politicians applied to the institution that is the chancellor of justice is alarming for courts of law. After all, the duties of the chancellor of justice also include overseeing the actions of courts of law.”

Prime Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP) underscored in discussing the possible border closure that it is not appropriate for cabinet members to criticise the body that is responsible for overseeing the legality of their actions.

He refrained, though, from commenting on the demands of rank-and-file members of the Finns Party.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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