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Anti-Discrimination Legislation

Anti-Discrimination Legislation

Article 1 of the Constitution of the Netherlands prohibits discrimination. It states that in situations involving equal circumstances all people have to be treated the same way. Several Dutch agencies, such as the Public Prosecution Service and the antidiscrimination services, are involved in the fight against discrimination. The Municipal Antidiscrimination Services Act ensures that everyone has the opportunity to report (alleged) discrimination in their own place of residence. In addition, everyone is entitled to receive assistance and advice from an antidiscrimination service. Since 1 June 2011, the Public Prosecution Service has been demanding double the standard penalty for violent offences involving discrimination.

Article 3 provides for any citizen to occupy any public office. On and institutional level, freedom of expression is safeguarded under Article 7 of the constitution, although there are some provisions banning hate speech and discrimination . Nevertheless, freedom of speech usually carries more weight in court decisions, as exemplified in a recent case against Dutch blog GeenStijl, which photoshopped the head of the mayor of The Hague onto a beheading victim of the extremist group Islamic State (IS). The prosecutors decided not to pursue the case.

Since 1 June 2011, the Public Prosecution Service has been demanding double the standard penalty for violent offences involving discrimination. The Public Prosecution Service (OM) determines whether a particular action is an offence or not. For this purpose, it has set up a special expertise centre, the National Discrimination Expertise Centre (LECD-OM) . Public Prosecutors can contact the centre for advice. The Public Prosecution Service (OM) registers all discrimination cases that are brought to its attention. The OM also operates an integrated database of criminal cases (GPS), which can be used to register all discrimination-related crimes (such as arson attacks on mosques or the desecration of Jewish cemeteries) that take place within a specific municipality. 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.

The most prominent legislative changes in 2015 refer to the priority areas, such as radicalization and terrorism. The integrative approach combines both the preventive and repressive measures, such as ‘flagging” passports (with a view to preventing travel to conflict zones); termination of social benefits allowances or student finance when a person has been designated a known jihadist traveller; and adding the suspected jihadists to a national terrorism list.

The new law, which introduces an immediate ban on payments, will also affect women who travel to Syria and Iraq to marry jihadists. Moreover, according to the official sources, the legislative measures against terrorism also include the two amendments to the Netherlands Nationality Act; the first seeks to revoke an individual’s citizenship for people who are convicted of a terrorist offence; the second provides for the possibility of revoking Dutch nationality in the interests of national security. In addition, the Government announces a number of “visible and invisible” measures to combat home-grown terrorism. For example, the government may take action against religious leaders who use their pupils to preach extremism, while foreign Islamic clerics who preached extremism in Dutch mosques would face deportation . Suspected jihadists and known foreign fighters who have returned to the Netherlands are required to check in daily with the police. Further, the new laws seek to stem the spread of online extremism by targeting Internet providers that allow terror groups to spread jihadist propaganda. A specialist unit within the National Police will work with Internet providers to ban offenders. The unit will also monitor and report offenses to the Public Prosecution Service.

Parallel with these legislative changes in the field of immigration and security, the Dutch government has actively worked to improve the safety and legal position of LGBT. This includes such subjects as: The Transgender Act, the lesbian parenthood Act, the national roll-out of Pink in Blue within the Police, making it easier to press charges with the police, attention to same-sex parents during adoption procedures and better assessment of asylum applications from LGBT. On 1 August, the Ministry of Security and Justice was sailing with its own boat in the Amsterdam Gay Pride canal parade. According to the Ministry website, the participation in the Canal Parade, under the credo 'Share Justice – Security & Justice 4 all' highlighted “the importance of tackling homophobic violence and combating discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity”.

On May 17, the House of Representatives of the Netherlands (Tweed Kamer) adopted the draft Provisional Law on Administrative Measures to Combat Terrorism, submitted by the Ministry of Security and Justice (MSJ). The bill restricts the freedom of movement of persons posing a threat to national security, and those who intend to join terrorist groups or provide them with financial support. It also applies to persons who return from places of hostilities (in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.) but who have not previously been prosecuted, as well as persons who did not leave the territory of the Netherlands, but, in the opinion of the special services, "strongly radicalized and ready to use violence." At the same time, the government has the authority to prohibit individuals from leaving the Netherlands if there are "reasonable suspicions" to leave the Schengen area in order to join a terrorist organization.

On May 24, 2016, the House of Representatives of the Netherlands adopted the second part of the draft law on combating terrorism, also submitted by the Ministry of Security and Justice. The new document requires amendments to the Dutch citizenship law, which will allow the government to withdraw Dutch citizenship without first accusing those citizens who join terrorist organizations abroad.

According to the ministry, "the return to the Netherlands of jihadists can be a direct threat to national security," and a rapid response is needed so that such people cannot return to the Netherlands. The amendment legislation states that the Minister of Justice and Security may demand the cancellation of the Dutch citizenship of a person who aged 16 and up voluntarily entered the armed forces of a state which participates in hostilities against the Kingdom of the Netherlands or against alliances that include the Kingdom.

The Minister may also revoke the citizenship of an individual who is at least 16 years of age and is outside the Kingdom if it becomes known that he or she has joined an organization that is on the list of terrorist organizations involved in national or international armed conflicts and is considered a threat to national security. In addition, the draft law provides that jihadists must be declared undesirable aliens after their citizenship is revoked.

Two new measures to remove citizenship and declare an alien an undesirable person complement existing forms of fighting terrorism and prevent the lawful return of such persons to the Netherlands and the Schengen area. However, the abolition of Dutch citizenship will not be possible if a person thus becomes stateless: this contradicts to the international conventions to which the Kingdom has acceded. Thus, the possibility of the abolition of citizenship in a practical sense is limited to persons with dual citizenship.

Obviously, such measures will have a double effect. On the one hand, they will partially solve the global problem of the return of jihadists to their countries of citizenship (and this problem is relevant not only for Holland, but for most other monitoring countries), but on the other, will lead to further polarization of society on a religious and ethnic basis. In addition, mistakes are possible, and some citizens may suffer accidently. The absence of a judicial procedure for the deprivation of citizenship actually makes them hostages to the possible arbitrariness of the executive authorities. Also, there is a moral issue of human rights defenders, since terrorists displaced from the Dutch society, but left non-prisoned, may continue to commit crimes abroad.

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