Total Objection

NOTICE! Outdated (Updated Google translation)

Total objection means refusing all service in the conscription system, including non-military service (NMS). Some total objectors (TOs) protest against conscription as a whole and would not carry out non-military service under any conditions, whilst others object primarily to the defects of the NMS system. Recently the number of total objectors (aka absolutist conscientious objector, total resister or absolutist war resister) has risen substantially (i.e. multiplied compared to the situation in 1990s): between years 1999–2006 ca. 50–80 total objectors have announced their refusal annually.

The prison sentence for people refusing straight out of the military or the call-up is the same as of those refusing after applying for non-military service, half of the personal service time left (the time for those who have not applied to NMS will be converted into NMS time through a calculation). The duration of non-military service is 395 days and therefore the maximum prison sentence for total objectors is 197 days. TOs refusing non-military service will get a sentence of "non-military service crime", others from "refusing the conscription". Two days of NMS always shortens the prison sentence by one day. The sentence is always unconditional and the only way to get to a parole is to apply back to non-military service. A sentence on total objections is not marked on ones criminal record. On the other hand the Security Police most likely marks it in their secret files which may cause trouble if one applies for a job which calls for a so called reliability statement.

Refusal Process

The process of total objection starts officially when an objector either presents a written declaration of refusal before his service has begun or during service, does not arrive at the place of service assigned to him (either military or non-military) or leaves without permission. If a CO presents his written refusal while in service, a warrant for his arrest is not issued. If one just quits without an explicit refusal, the place of service will call for executive assistance by the police and the CO will be collected from his home. A refusal announcement may be presented then too.

If one refuses directly of military service, the most certain way to succeed is to visit the garrison on the day when service is designated to begin and present one's announcement of refusal. If one does not go to the garrison one is likely to be prosecuted for deserting which most likely leads to a probation.

The refusal is followed by police intetrogation and the trial. The litigation will not take place until several months or even over a year after the refusal. The Union of COs organizes legal aid, including counsel, for all TOs who request it.

The time between the legal proceedings and enforcement of the sentence is three months on the average. After the decision by the court of first instance one can postpone the prison sentence by pleading to the Court of Appeal (Hovioikeus). The sentence will not be changed unless there was a clear mistake in the decision by the lower court of justice, but it will not be enforced while the plea is being processed, which takes at least six months. Going to prison may sometimes be put off for years but it will take almost half a year from the refusal even if one wishes to hurry.


These days most total objectors' serve their prison sentences in so-called open prisons, which are more like labour colonies than walled penitentiaries. To be placed in an open prison the TO must obtain an open prison stipulation which can be done with the assistance of recovery proceedings authorities when the enforcement of the sentence becomes topical. Most TOs have no problems getting into an open ward. Few have had any significant trouble with other inmates or prison staff during their sentence. Being imprisoned is therefore not a thing to be frightened of.

There are no walls, bars or locked in cells open prisons. They also offer the possibility to work or study outside of prison during working hours, other time is spent in the prison. If one does not have a civilian job or study place, one is under an obligation to do work organized by the institution, provided it is able to do so. The pay is almost as good as in outside jobs (3.63 to 4.41 €/h) but the prison takes part of it as upkeep expenses.

If one hasn't been able to get the OP stipulation, breaches open prison conduct in a serious way (e.g. tries to escape, is caught of using intoxicants), or simply does not wish to go into an open prison, one will be placed in an closed prison. They resemble people's common impressions of prisons: all time is spent behind walls and most of the time, excluding work time, the prisoners are in their cells. The pay for work in closed institutions is 0.40 to 0,67 € an hour.

In both open and closed prisons the prisoners may get total six days of leave for every four months of imprisonment, but not before having carried out two months of sentence.

In recent years several international bodies (for example UN's Human Rights Committee), who are overseeing the implementation of human rights agreements have demanded Finland to take measures to improve its legislation concerning COs , since it has been found out to be discriminatory. Sources of criticism have among other things been the punitive length of the service, the release of conscientious objectors from military duty only during peace time and the negligence in arranging accommodation for the servicemen. Since 1999, Amnesty International has considered Finnish TOs, who have refused to carry out non-military service, as prisoners of conscience, because of the punitive length of non-military service.

Basic Info about Partial Objection

By partial objection we mean becoming a TO while in service. Most partial objectors protest against the defects in non-military service: overly long duration, limiting the right to conscientious objection to peace time only, and/or the practical problems in the NMS system.

The easiest way to partially object is to present a written announcement of refusal to service place staff, who will, after contacting the NMS centre in Lapinjärvi, report an NMS offence to the police.

A partial objector's sentence is calculated with the same formula as a total objector's. Therefore if one refuses after serving the mean time of military service (ca. 8 months), the sentence will be (395–240) ÷ 2 = 77 days. The process after refusing is in other ways similar to that of TOs'. Naturally, this will also not show in one's criminal record.

Total Objectors Currently in Prison

Total objectors' prison sentence is always half of non-military service time left to serve, maximum of 181 days. People refusing military service have often received conditional sentences of deserting. The following TOs may be contacted via mail.