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Majority of Finnish Parties Support Swastika Ban, Nationalists Disagree Citing Freedom of Speech

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The survey was largely spurred on by a Helsinki District Court ruling that unexpectedly dismissed criminal charges for displaying swastika flags on Independence Day and launched a public debate on the appropriateness of this symbol, given Finland’s long and complicated history with the swastika.

In a major survey by national broadcaster Yle, the overwhelming majority of Finnish parties from across the political spectrum said they were prepared to criminalise public display of the swastika.

Prior to the survey, the Helsinki District Court somewhat sensationally dismissed criminal charges against five men suspected of incitement against an ethnic group by displaying swastika flags on Independence Day.

The ruling Social Democrats’ parliamentary group chairman Antti Lindtman said the use of a swastika flag or any other symbol that violates human dignity should not be allowed in Finland. According to Lindtman, the association with the ideology and atrocities of Nazi Germany cannot be ignored.

“The genocide of the Jewish people is one of the most horrific crimes in human history. That history should not be forgotten or hidden, so its public glorification is highly questionable. It must be possible to restrict the public dissemination and presentation of Nazi ideology”, he said.

Yet, Lindtman emphasised that his party is awaiting the outcome of the ongoing legal process regarding the use of the swastika flag, as state prosecutor Raija Toiviainen has indicated she plans to appeal the district court’s decision in the case.

“If it turns out that the legislation is deficient in this respect, we are ready to make the necessary changes”, Lindtman said, musing whether it is appropriate to prohibit other symbols that degrade human dignity.

Emma Kari, chair of the Green Party’s parliamentary group, ventured that the public use of the swastika flag should be prohibited by law.

“Legislation must protect against racism and discrimination. If the current legislation fails to do so, then it must be rectified”, Kari said, admitting that the ban would incur issues over how and when the flag should be displayed, such as in museums for educational reasons.

Jussi Saramo of the Left Alliance said it was “quite evident” that the “public waving” of swastika flags should be banned in Finland, as has been done in other countries.

“The reason why that flag is banned elsewhere and why it should be banned in Finland as well is that it represents pure evil. It is sad that our society has declined in such a way that this needs to be discussed at all”, Saramo said.

Similar sentiments were expressed by members of the opposition. According to Kai Mykkänen, chairman of the National Coalition Party’s (NCP) parliamentary group, the use of the swastika as incitement against an ethnic group or as a threatening gesture must be criminalised. Mykkänen raised the question as to what other symbols may end up on the exclusion list.

The Christian Democrats said they would also support the swastika ban, as the party is very concerned about anti-Semitism, parliamentary group chair Päivi Räsänen underscored.

“The scenes of swastika flags on the streets are a disgusting phenomenon. Anti-Semitism must be combated by remembering the events that led to the Holocaust. However, we also emphasise the need for extensive work against anti-Semitism, prohibiting use of the flag alone is not enough”, Räsänen said.

The Centre Party said it doesn’t want to take a stance until the appeals process is finished, but highlighted that the use of swastikas should be restricted by law.

By contrast, the nationalist Finns Party said it was unnecessary to use legislation to ban the use of swastika flags.

Its parliamentary group chair Ville Tavio cited the ultima ratio principle of criminal law, which says that a problem should only be criminalised as a last resort.

“In my opinion, this is not such a serious social problem that it requires the strongest possible intervention of the state”, Tavio said, adding that he is more concerned about the growing restrictions on individual freedoms than about the use of the swastika flag in Finnish society.

MP Ano Turtiainen, who recently founded the Power Belongs to the People Party (VKK) after being ejected from the Finns Party, rejected the idea of banning the swastika outright, arguing that restrictions on people’s freedoms could spread further.

Finland’s history with the swastika actually predates the rise of Nazi Germany. From the late 19th century onwards, the swastika emerged as a symbol of rising Finnish nationalism. Following Finland’s independence, the swastika was frequently used in the newborn nation’s flags, emblems, and decorations, as well as house design. While the swastika somewhat fell into disuse following WWII, in which Finland was a co-belligerent of the Axis powers, it remains visible in historic contexts.



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[Ticker] US to lift Covid travel-ban on EU tourists

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Fully vaccinated travellers from the EU and the UK will be let back into the US from “early November” onward, the White House said on Monday, ending an 18-month ban and prompting airline firms’ shares to climb. “This new international travel system follows the science to keep Americans … safe,” a US spokesman said. The EU recently recommended increased restrictions on US visitors, amid anger at lack of US reciprocity.

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Ten women and girls killed every day in Mexico, Amnesty report says | Global development

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At least 10 women and girls are murdered every day in Mexico, according to a new report that says victims’ families are often left to carry out their own homicide investigations.

The scathing report, released on Monday by Amnesty International, documents both the scale of the violence and the disturbing lack of interest on the part of Mexican authorities to prevent or solve the murders.

“Mexico is continuing to fail to fulfil its duty to investigate and, therefore, its duty to guarantee the rights to life and personal integrity of the victims as well as to prevent violence against women,” says the report, Justice on Trial.

“Feminicidal violence and the failings in investigation and prevention in northern Mexico are not anecdotal, but rather form part of a broader reality in the country,” the report adds.

Femicide has been rife in Mexico for decades – most notoriously in an epidemic of murders which claimed the life of some 400 women in the border city Ciudad Juárez during the 1990s. In recent years, a growing feminist movement has held massive street protests against the violence, but authorities have proved unwilling to take action to stop the killing.

“It’s always a question of political will,” said Maricruz Ocampo, a women’s activist in the state of Querétaro.

Ocampo has been part of teams lobbying state governors to issue an alert when femicides reach scandalously high levels – a move to raise awareness and mobilise resources. But officials often resist such moves, she said, as governors worry about their states’ images and investment.

“They refuse to recognise there is a problem,” she said.

The president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has also downplayed the problem. He branded the women protesting on 8 March, International Women’s Day, as “conservatives” and alleged a dark hand manipulating the demonstrations.

When asked last year about rising violence against women, he responded, “Tell all the women of Mexico that they are protected and represented, that we’re doing everything possible to guarantee peace and quiet and that I understand that our adversaries are looking for ways to confront us.”

Mexico recorded the murders of 3,723 women in 2020. Some 940 of those murders were investigated as femicides.

The Amnesty report focused on Mexico state, a vast collection of gritty suburbs surrounding Mexico City on three sides. It has become notorious for femicides over the past decade – and for the way the former president, Enrique Peña Nieto, a former Mexico state governor, ignored the problem.

The report found cases of families carrying out their own detective work, which were ignored by investigators. In many cases, authorities contaminated crime scenes or mishandled evidence. They often did not even pursue leads such as geolocation information from victims’ mobile phones.

In the case of Julia Sosa, whose children believe she was killed by her partner, two daughters found her body buried on the suspect’s property – but had to wait hours for police to arrive and process the crime scene. One of her daughters recalled the subsequent interview process, in which “the police officer was falling asleep”.

Sosa’s partner hanged himself, prompting police to close the case, even though family members said there were more leads to pursue.

In states rife with drug cartel violence, activists say cases of femicides go uninvestigated as impunity is commonplace.

“The authorities say it’s organised crime and that’s it,” said Yolotzin Jaimes, a women’s rights campaigner in the southern state of Guerrero. “Many of these aggressors find protection under the excuse of organised crime.”

The persistence of femicides is a stark contrast to recent gains by the women’s movement in Mexico. The country’s supreme court decriminalised abortion earlier this month. A new congress recently sworn in has gender parity and seven female governors will be installed by the end of year – up from just two before last June’s election’s

The decriminalisation of abortion “let off some steam” from the pressure driving the protests “because part of the demands was over the right to choose,” Ocampo said. “But when it comes to violence, we still see it everywhere.”

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US official urges EU to speed up enlargement

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Gabriel Escobar, the US’ newly-appointed acting deputy secretary of state for South Central Europe, has urged Europe to speed up Western Balkans enlargement. “To return 20 years later and see that there hasn’t been much progress on that front was a little disappointing,” he told the RFE/RL news agency Friday, referring to his last post in Europe in 2001. “We would like to see a more rapid integration,” he said.

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