National Police Board issues decision on the Elokapina demonstration

Publication date 16.12.2022 14.07 | Published in English on 16.12.2022 at 14.20
News item

On 16 December 2022, the National Police Board has made a decision on the case of internal legality control relating to the events during the demonstration organized by the Finnish branch of Extinction Rebellion (Finnish name Elokapina) outside the Government Palace in Helsinki on 8 October 2021.

According to the decision, police operations did not give cause to objections, with the exception of communication, which was not, in all respects, carried out in line with the instructions issued on communication by the police.

The National Police Board decided to investigate the appropriateness of police measures due to the high media attention, and criticism, directed at police measures.

In the decision, the operations of Helsinki Police Department were assessed in three subject areas: the grounds for interruption and dispersal of the demonstration, the grounds for apprehending demonstrators, and the appropriateness of communication.

Dispersal of the demonstration was not contrary to the law

As to the dispersal of the demonstration, the National Police Board considered the police to have had the preconditions pursuant to the Assembly Act to disperse the demonstration in the immediate vicinity of the main entrances of the Government Palace, because the demonstrators’ activities were essentially unlawful and other, more lenient measures had proven inadequate in the situation.

Based on the investigation, the organizers of the demonstration had neglected their obligations under the Assembly Act, and the demonstrators failed to comply with the orders issued by the police pursuant to the law. 

The National Police Board considered the police to have acted with moderation and to have strived to cooperate with the demonstrators, allowing them sufficient time to respond to the instructions and orders of the police. 

The demonstration was allowed to continue elsewhere in the vicinity of the Government Palace, and the police continued to guarantee the exercise of the freedom of assembly. The National Police Board considered the police to have acted appropriately in the challenging situation, observing the rights and safety of both the demonstrators and third parties.  

Apprehensions based on the information available at the time of the incident

With regard to the apprehensions, the National Police Board considered the decisions to have been based on information available to the police at the time of the incident, and the National Police Board did not find cause to suspect that the head investigator had exceeded their discretionary powers in assessing the types of offence applicable to the act and forming the basis for arrests. 

Even though the case involved certain elements subject to interpretation as to whether the essential elements of aggravated violation of privacy relating to public premises were fulfilled, the head investigator had consulted the prosecutor when selecting the type of offence.

In the decision, the National Police Board emphasized, however, in general, that particularly in situations where the choice of the type of offence influences the scope of the coercive measures used, the police must carefully ensure that the case is not be investigated as an unnecessarily serious type of offence. In addition, the National Police Board paid attention to the person- and case-specific evaluation of the grounds for arrest in general. 

Shortcomings in communication identified

As to communication, the National Police Board found that Helsinki Police Department’s communication during the incident was not implemented fully in line with the instructions issued on communication by the police. The shortcomings have been identified by the police department and the required measures have been taken. 

The National Police Board stated that in all communication, particularly in cases that attract extensive public interest, the correctness of information must be ensured by all available means. 
The National Police Board found it sufficient to inform Helsinki Police Department of the statement issued on the preconditions for arrest, and communication.

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