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Constitutional amendment concerning secrecy of confidential communications enters into force in October

Ministry of Justice 4.10.2018 14.26 | Published in English on 4.10.2018 at 15.25
Press release
Constitutional amendment concerning secrecy of confidential communications enters into force in October

The Constitution will be amended so that provisions on limitations to the secrecy of confidential communications that are necessary for protecting national security can be laid down by an ordinary act, if certain preconditions deemed necessary are met. In practice, the amendment allows the enactment of separate intelligence legislation yet before the end of this government term. The President of the Republic is to approve the amendment so that it will enter into force on 15 October 2018.

Parliament is currently discussing the proposed legislation on civil and military intelligence and on the oversight of intelligence gathering.

Under the Constitution, the secrecy of correspondence, telephony and other confidential communications is inviolable. Under a new subsection to be added to the Constitution, provisions concerning limitations to the secrecy of communications that are necessary in the investigation of crimes that jeopardise the security of the individual or society or the sanctity of the home, at trials and security checks, during deprivation of liberty, and for the purpose of gathering intelligence on military operations or other such activities that pose a serious threat to national security may be laid down by an act.

Military operations' refer to both governmental and non-governmental operations involving militarily organised groups or use of military force. 'Intelligence gathering on military operations' includes surveying of external military threats directed at Finland.

Activities that pose a serious threat to national security' refer to activities that threaten the law and order of democratic society, basic functions of society, life or health of a large number of people, or international peace and security. However, it is required that the activities are connected with Finland and specifically threaten the national security of Finland.

Pursuant to the amendment, provisions on intelligence gathering powers that interfere with the secrecy of communications can in future be laid down by an ordinary act. The new provision does, however, set out preconditions under which provisions on these powers may be enacted. First, the threat directed at national security must be serious. Second, it is required that the powers interfering with the secrecy of communications must be necessary for the purpose of intelligence gathering. The amendment does not allow enactment of provisions on general, non-specific and all-encompassing telecommunications intelligence.

Parliament amended the wording of the provision proposed by the Government so that the provision continues to refer to 'investigation of crimes' instead of 'prevention of crimes' as proposed.

Inquiries:

Tuula Majuri, Director of Legislative Affairs, tel. +358 2951 50280,
Anu Mutanen, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 2951 50311, email:  firstname.lastname@om.fi