AS TO THE ADMISSIBILITY OF

                      Application No. 18131/91
                      by A.S.
                      against Finland

      The European Commission of Human Rights sitting in private on
29 June 1992, the following members being present:

           MM.   C.A. NØRGAARD, President
                 S. TRECHSEL
                 E. BUSUTTIL
                 G. JÖRUNDSSON
                 A.S. GÖZÜBÜYÜK
                 A. WEITZEL
                 J.-C. SOYER
                 H.G. SCHERMERS
                 H. DANELIUS
           Mrs.  G.H. THUNE
           Sir   Basil HALL
           MM.   F. MARTINEZ
                 C.L. ROZAKIS
           Mrs.  J. LIDDY
           MM.   L. LOUCAIDES
                 J.-C. GEUS
                 M.P. PELLONPÄÄ
                 B. MARXER

           Mr.   H.C. KRÜGER, Secretary to the Commission.

      Having regard to Article 25 of the Convention for the Protection
of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms;

      Having regard to the application introduced on 11 March 1991 by
A.S. against Finland and registered on 25 April 1991 under file No.
18131/91;

      Having regard to

-     the report provided for in Rule 47 of the Rules of Procedure of
      the Commission;

-     the observations submitted by the respondent Government on
      28 February 1992 and the observations in reply submitted by the
      applicant on 13 April 1992;

      Having deliberated;

      Decides as follows:
THE FACTS

      The applicant is a Finnish citizen born in 1936.  He is a customs
inspector. Before the Commission he is represented by Mr. Markku
Fredman, a lawyer practising in Helsinki.

      The facts of the case, as submitted by the parties, may be
summarised as follows.

Particular circumstances of the case

      In March 1989 the applicant requested the County Administrative
Board (lääninhallitus, länsstyrelsen) of the County of Uusimaa to grant
him permission to have his surname changed to "Tawaststjerna", a name
used by his ancestors.  The applicant further referred to practical
inconveniencies in using his present name of old Swedish form, as it
is less known and, because of pronunciation difficulties, easily
misspelt, as (list of several mis-spellings).

      By an advisory opinion of 19 April 1989 to the County
Administrative Board the Advisory Name Board (nimilautakunta, nämnden
för namnärenden) objected to the change, as it had not been shown that
the proposed name had been in established use by his ancestors.  The
Board noted that the ancestor to whom the applicant referred had been
born out of wedlock.  It further had regard to the fact that the name
had belonged to very distant ancestors of the applicant and that the
expression "ancestor" in the Surname Act (sukunimilaki 694/85,
släktnamnslagen 694/85) does not include all direct ancestors of an
applicant, without any limitations.  The Board referred to Section 10
para. 2 of the Act.

      During the subsequent exchange of views between the applicant and
the Name Board the applicant on 14 June 1989 stated that his present
name had given rise to a pejorative nickname, "kirnu" (Eng. churn)
derived from "Ts....".  He contended that the distant relationship with
his ancestors could not be interpreted to his detriment.  He further
contested that his ancestor had been born out of wedlock. He referred
to the result of a genealogical investigation submitted to the County
Administrative Board already as an annex to his request and questioned
on what grounds the Name Board had come to another conclusion.

      The Name Board on 25 October 1989 contended that the proposed
name was inappropriate and that the request should not be granted. The
Name Board noted that the applicant had put forward a weighty reason
for his request, that is the obscure character of his present name.
However, although the applicant was a descendant of an ancestor named
T....... who died in 1773, the relationship between the applicant and
that ancestor was remote. Moreover, the proposed name could result in
inconveniences similar to those caused by the applicant's present name.

      On 21 November 1989 the applicant - following an expert opinion
submitted to the Name Board by a member of that Board - alleged that
that opinion was partial.  He further stated that his present name was
causing delays in his mail because of spelling difficulties.  However,
he changed the proposed name to "T........" in order to comply with the
spelling form recommended by the member of the Name Board.

      On 26 January 1990 the applicant made further submissions to the
County Administrative Board, arguing that he had complied with all
criteria set out by the Name Board.  He further referred to a telephone
conversation with a member of the Name Board according to whom a
further criterion taken into account by the Board was the old-fashioned
character of the proposed name.  This criterion, however, was not
stated in its opinions.

      On 12 February 1990 the County Administrative Board, in
application of Section 10 para. 2 of the Surname Act, rejected the
applicant's request, finding that it had not been shown that the
proposed name had been in established use by his ancestors, as the
ancestor referred to had been born out of wedlock. On the other hand,
the Board found that the name had been used by very distant ancestors,
for which reason the proposed change could not be considered
appropriate.

      Following the applicant's appeal the Supreme Administrative Court
(korkein hallinto-oikeus, högsta förvaltningsdomstolen) on 14 November
1990 (by 4 votes to 1) upheld the County Administrative Board's
decision.  The Court stated:

      "From the documents in the case it is established that [the
      applicant's] ancestor, Mr. F. S...., born in ... 1764, was
      the child of Mr. M. F. T...... and born out of wedlock.
      However, merely for this reason the proposed name cannot be
      considered to have belonged to [the applicant's] ancestors
      in such an established way as prescribed in Section 10
      para. 2 of the Surname Act.  Having regard to this as well
      as to the reasons stated in the County Administrative
      Board's decision .. there is no reason to change that
      decision..."

      The dissenting member stated, inter alia:

      "From the documents in the case it is established that the
      proposed name T..... has belonged in an established way to
      the applicant's ancestors.  The fact that ... F., ...
      starting from whom the surname of the applicant's ancestors
      ... has been "S.....", was born out of wedlock, has no
      legal relevance... (As) [the applicant] has established
      that [his] present surname is causing [him] inconvenience
      I quash the County Administrative Board's decision and
      refer the case back for new examination."

Relevant domestic law

      Under Section 10 of the Name Act (nimilaki, namnlagen; the title
of the act amended by Act no. 253/91) a surname may be changed, if the
applicant can show that the use of his present surname is causing him
inconvenience because of its foreign origin, its meaning in common
usage, its common appearance or for any other reason (para. 1); if the
proposed surname has previously been used by himself or, in an
established way, by his ancestors and provided the change may be
considered appropriate (para. 2); or if a change of surname can be
considered justified because of changed circumstances or for other
particular reasons (para. 3).


      Section 12 para. 1 provides that a surname commonly known as
being used by a particular Finnish or foreign family cannot be approved
as a new surname, unless there are a special reasons.

      Under Section 13 para. 2 such a reason exists if the requested
name is shown previously to have been lawfully used by the applicant
or his ancestors.


COMPLAINTS

1.    The applicant complains that the refusal to grant him permission
to have his surname changed violates his right to respect for his
private life under Article 8 of the Convention.  He submits that his
present name causes him great difficulties in his daily life, e.g.
because of the pejorative nickname and delays in his mail.  The
applicant further refers to the position of the Advisory Name Board,
as made public by the Board itself, according to which the remote
relationship between the applicant and his ancestors is not the only
criterion to be considered, but that a request must be considered
taking the circumstances as a whole into account.

2.    Although under Finnish law the applicant could take the name
"Tavaststjerna" if he would marry somebody with that name he is not
allowed to take that name back even though it has been used by his
ancestors.  The fact that his ancestor was born out of wedlock has been
considered to his detriment in the consideration of his request,
although under Finnish law a child born out of wedlock may take the
name of its father.  In this respect the applicant invokes Article 14
of the Convention.


THE LAW

1.    The applicant complains that the refusal to allow him to have his
surname changed violates his right to respect for his private life
under Article 8 (Art. 8) of the Convention. He submits that his present
name is causing him inconveniences in his daily life.

      Article 8 (Art. 8) of the Convention reads:

      "1.  Everyone has the right to respect for his private and
      family life, his home and his correspondence.

      2.   There shall be no interference by a public authority
      with the exercise of this right except such as is in
      accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic
      society in the interests of national security, public
      safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the
      prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of
      health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and
      freedoms of others."


      The Government submit that whilst the legislation on names and
the measures taken in accordance with that legislation are partially
linked with the private life referred to in Article 8 para. 1
(Art. 8 1) of the Convention, in the case at issue there has been no
interference with the applicant's right to respect for his private or
family life.

      Should the Commission consider Article 8 (Art. 8) of the
Convention to be applicable in the present case the Government submit
that the interference with the applicant's right was justified for the
reasons set out in paragraph 2 of the provision. The refusal was based
on sufficient and precise provisions in the Name Act and, thus, lawful.
Moreover, it was made in the interests of national security, public
safety and for the prevention of disorder or crime and the protection
of the rights and freedoms of others.

      In conclusion, having regard to the social control functions of
the legislation and the aims expressly stated in the travaux
preparatoires to the Name Act (Bill no. 236/84) the relevant provisions
are fair and reasonable and have been appropriately and consistently
applied.

      The Government finally refer to the fact that many Contracting
States have restrictions on the right to name changes similar to those
applying in Finland.

      The applicant contends that Article 8 (Art. 8) is applicable in
his case. He has shown that his present name is causing him
inconveniences. In the circumstances of the case the refusal violates
his rights under that provision.

      He further submits that, although accepting that the Name Act
does not provide an absolute right to a name change, he is not trying
to take just any name but a name proven to have been used by a direct
ancestor. Although the Supreme Administrative Court found that the
applicant's ancestor born in 1764 was the son of a Tavaststjerna that
name was not considered to have belonged to the applicant's ancestors
in an established way. However, it is clear from the documents that
also the father of that Tavaststjerna carried that name. The prefix
"Tavast" is well-known to Finns without knowledge of Swedish and
appears in certain Swedish names still used in Finland.

      As regards the purposes under Article 8 para. 2 (Art. 8-2) of the
Convention allegedly justifying the refusal, the applicant submits that
it has not even been argued by the Government that he requested the
name change in order to disguise himself. The control function of the
legislation on names has been excessively emphasised. The only relevant
justification for restricting name changes would be the protection of
the rights of others. However, in the present case the proposed name
change would in no way infringe on the rights of others. Moreover, the
wide-spread use of personal identity numbers decreases the State's
interest in restricting the right to name changes. Criminal records and
other social control measures are based on the personal identity
number.

      The applicant finally notes that the Government admit that the
Name Act was not applied correctly in that the authorities did not
consider the request under Section 10 para. 1 of the Act.

      The Commission has proceeded to a preliminary examination of the
complaint in the light of the parties' submissions. It considers that
it raises questions of fact and law which are of such a complex nature
that their determination requires an examination of the merits. The
complaint cannot therefore be declared inadmissible as being manifestly
ill-founded within the meaning of Article 27 para. 2 (Art. 27-2) of the
Convention. No other ground for declaring it inadmissible has been
established.

2.    The applicant further alleges that the refusal is discriminatory
and, thus, in violation of Article 14 (Art. 14) of the Convention.

      Article 14 (Art. 14) of the Convention reads:

      "The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this
      Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any
      ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion,
      political or other opinion, national or social origin,
      association with a national minority, property, birth or
      other status."

      The Commission has found above that the complaint under Article
8 (Art. 8) of the Convention is admissible. As the complaint under
Article 14 (Art. 14) of the Convention is linked to that complaint, it
must also be declared admissible.

      For these reasons, the Commission, by a majority,

      DECLARES THE APPLICATION ADMISSIBLE, without prejudging the
      merits of the case.


   Secretary to the Commission      President of the Commission




         (H.C. KRÜGER)                    (C.A. NØRGAARD)