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Application of Legislation, Criminal Cases, Court Rulings

Application of Legislation, Criminal Cases, Court Rulings Supreme Court of the Netherlands

An important criterion for assessing law enforcement practices is the ability of the authorities to build an effective infrastructure to counter discrimination and hate crimes, from information collection to policing or judicial remedies. On these parameters the Netherlands has made significant progress.

There are currently two types of equality bodies in the Netherlands. The Netherlands Institute for Human Rights (NIHR) is a quasi-judicial body that has been assigned with the tasks of hearing complains about unequal treatment (which result in a non-binding Opinion), drafting reports, giving advice to the government and investigating possible instances of structural discrimination . The Anti-Discrimination Bureaus (‘anti-discriminatievoorzieningen’ ADV’s) have a legal basis in the Act on Local Anti-Discrimination Bureaus . All 393 municipalities are obliged to install and subsidize an ADV. The ADV’s work together in the National Association of Anti-Discrimination Bureaus (‘Landelijke Vereniging ADB’s) and are supported by expert institute ‘Art.1’.

Within each municipality, it is the statutory responsibility of the local antidiscrimination service to register discrimination complaints. Each of the 11 regional public prosecutor’s offices in the Netherlands has a specially trained public prosecutor who handles all discrimination cases in the region. Recently, both Art.1 and the NIHR have published new statistics on discrimination, showing a large increase of complains about discrimination to ADV’s in 2014 (from 6.186 complains in 2013 to 9.714 in 2014) . However, most of these complains concerned one incident, namely Geert Wilders’ remarks on less Moroccans. In fact, there has been a substantial decrease in the number of complains lodged to the ADV’s. Most of the reported complains concern discrimination on the ground of race/ethnic origin. Equality bodies publish statistics on discrimination; Public Prosecution Service only takes on a fraction of discrimination cases reported to the police. According to an internal report of the National Expertise Centre Discrimination, the handling of discrimination cases by the Public Prosecutor is worrying: out of 1600 cases of discrimination reported to the police in 2013, only 83 were taken on by the Public Prosecutor – the lowest number since registration began in 1998, while there is no reason to assume that the actual prevalence of discrimination is lower than before. Again, most cases concert the non-discrimination ground race/ethnic origin.

According to the Dutch daily NRC, on 16 March, the police and the municipality of Twente prevented a concert of German neo-Nazi band Kategorie C known as “Hungrige Wolfe” (Hungry Wolves).

A number of measures were taken against radical Islamists. The authorities obtained the right to deport foreign radical preachers. Suspected jihadists and militants who returned from Syria should be observed daily in the police. Moreover, Salafism itself is not prohibited in the Netherlands.

According to a recent report that has been submitted to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination by the independent Dutch Equal Treatment Commission, the Dutch government has not invested enough efforts into prevention of discrimination against ethnic and religious minorities, and lacks concrete measures aimed at combating prejudice and stereotypes . As a consequence, the latent intergroup animosity may easily progress into everyday discriminatory practices and, as several incidents in the past months indicate, into violence.

The Dutch law enforcement agencies often face the problem of distinguishing between observing freedom of speech and identifying hate speech. For example, the leader of the ultra-right Party of Freedom, Gert Wilders, is regularly tried and acquitted of hate speech. As Judge Marcel van Osten said in 2011: Wilders' statements are “rude and hateful,” but since they technically do not encourage violence against Muslims, they are an acceptable as part of the Dutch culture of debate. At the end of 2015, court acquitted a Muslim rapper Ismael Hulich, who insulted Jews and LGBT people, citing his artistic self-expression.

There are currently more than 95 criminal investigations in progress concerning violent jihad-related offences and focusing on around 145 individuals. Rotterdam district court sentenced a man to four years in prison for preparing a terrorist offence and possessing and trafficking in illegal firearms . A woman was sentenced 6 months in prison for financial support to the Islamic Jihad Union.

In the Netherlands has only recently started in 2015 prosecuting anti-Semitic and Islamophobic hate speech on Facebook . Nevertheless, charges brought against the offenders were overly light. Meanwhile, manager of Holland’s football club was not prosecuted for provocative posts at all, as he promptly removed them on police’s request. It is worth noting that in 2015, out of 15 thousand reports of violent hate crime only 105 have reached trial (0.7%) . This is only 20 cases more than in 2014.

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