Human rights in the Netherlands

Azure, billetty Or a lion with a coronet Or armed and langued Gules holding in his dexter paw a sword Argent hilted Or and in the sinister paw seven arrows Argent pointed and bound together Or. [The seven arrows stand for the seven provinces of the Union of Utrecht.] The shield is crowned with the (Dutch) royal crown and supported by two lions Or armed and langued gules. They stand on a scroll Azure with the text (Or) "Je Maintiendrai" (French for "I will maintain".)
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The human rights of the Netherlands are codified in the Dutch constitution. Together with other European states, the Netherlands is often at or near the head in international civil liberties and political rights rankings.[1]

Constitutional rights

The first chapter of the Dutch constitution codifies the rights of all inhabitants of the Netherlands. These are both negative and positive rights as well as democratic rights. This includes a ban on discrimination (the first article of the Netherlands), the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of association and freedom of assembly and the right to privacy. These are limitations on government, which citizens can enforce these classical civil rights directly at the judge. Additionally there are social rights such as the right to housing, social security, health care, education and employment. These are duties of the government towards its citizens, but these cannot be enforced by a judge. Democratic rights include the passive and active right to vote. The Netherlands has banned capital punishment during peace time and war time. The Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations is responsible for the constitution.

In the Netherlands there are still some legacy laws conflicting with the freedom of speech. Lèse-majesté and Blasphemy law (amongst others), the latter was officially abolished on February 1, 2014.[2]

The Netherlands is signatory to all relevant international human rights instruments such as European Convention on Human Rights, Rome Statute (for the International Criminal Court) and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, European Convention on Torture and the European Social Charter.


Several institutions are involved in the protection of classical human rights, in addition to the Supreme Court, the Commission Equal Treatment (non-discrimination), the Board Protection Personal Information (privacy) and the National Ombudsman.

In 2007 Amnesty International criticised the Dutch government of several human rights issues, including war crimes in the Iraq war, the treatment of alleged terrorists and the detention of migrants, especially children and an incident surrounding a fire in an asylum seeker detention centre.[3] In 2005 The US Department of State observed several problems with human rights such as the societal discrimination and violence against religious and ethnic minorities, especially after the murder of Theo van Gogh and the human trafficking in women and girls for sexual exploitation.[4]

Human trafficking

Human trafficking is a widely recognised problem. The Netherlands is listed by the UNODC as a top destination for victims of human trafficking.[5]

In the Netherlands, it is estimated that there are from 1,000 to 7,000 trafficking victims a year. Most police investigations relate to legal sex businesses, with all sectors of prostitution being well represented, but with window brothels being particularly overrepresented. [6][7][8] In 2008, there were 809 registered trafficking victims, 763 were women and at least 60 percent of them were forced to work in the sex industry. All victims from Hungary were female and were forced into prostitution.[9] [10] Out of all Amsterdam's 8,000 to 11,000 prostitutes, more than 75% are from Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia, according to a former prostitute who produced a report about the sex trade in Amsterdam, in 2008.[11] An article in Le Monde in 1997 found that 80% of prostitutes in the Netherlands were foreigners and 70% had no immigration papers.[12][13]

In 2000, the Netherlands established the Dutch National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Human Beings and Sexual Violence against Children to report on the progress of the Dutch Government in combating human trafficking, which produced its first report in 2002.[14]

Torture and ill treatment

According to the Council of Europe anti-torture Committee, there were several violations of human rights committed by Dutch officials.[15]

Police brutality

In 2009, two police officers from Bleiswijk approached a homeless man sleeping on the grass in a town park, detained him, and drove him away to a place north of Moerkapelle. They then told him to dig his own grave, whilst threatening him with guns. The homeless man was left there. The incident came up only because one of the policemen has reported the incident to his superior. Both policemen were discharged and sentenced to six months in prison.[16][17]

House visit controversy

People on welfare in the Netherlands can get a house visit by inspectors without any concrete suspicion of fraud required. Because forcing entry would be in conflict with the right to privacy, the citizen in question is asked permission to enter. However, if entry is denied, they can be cut on their income. [18] It is not accepted for the residents to make video recordings of this event in their own home. A significant large part of the Dutch population is potentially exposed these privacy invasive measures as they do not only apply to people on unemployment welfare but other benefits as well.

International law

The Netherlands hosts several international human rights institutions. The Hague is home to the International Criminal Court, the Yugoslavia Tribunal, the International Court of Justice, Rwanda Tribunal.

See also


  1. See Freedom House ranking, 2005. Switzerland received the highest possible grade, 1, in both political rights and civil liberties. See also the Netherlands' entry in List of indices of freedom.
  2. Wet van 23 januari 2014 tot wijziging van het Wetboek van Strafrecht in verband met het laten vervallen van het verbod op godslastering, Stb. 2014, 39. (Law of January 23, 2014 to amend the Criminal Code in connection with the abolishment of the ban on blasphemy)
  3. Amnesty International report for 2007
  4. report of the Department of State for 2005
  5. "UN highlights human trafficking". BBC. March 26, 2007.
  7. Margaret Melrose; Jenny Pearce (2013). Critical Perspectives on Child Sexual Exploitation and Related Trafficking. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 151. ISBN 9781137294104.
  11. Welfare house visits
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