UPR of the Netherlands: focus on hate speech in the political arena
Monday, 04 June 2012 14:58


On 31 May, the Human Rights Council’s (the Council) Working Group on the UPR considered the human rights record of the Netherlands.  The Kingdom of the Netherlands comprises, in addition to the Netherlands, the islands of Curaçao, Saint Maarten, and Aruba.  The State’s delegation was headed by the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Ms Liesbeth Spies. The situation of the current Government of the Netherlands is unsettled as it had to resign last month after a budget crisis. The next parliamentary election will be held in September. Nevertheless, only 49 States were registered on the list of speakers and therefore, member States of the Council were allocated 3 minutes and observer States 2 minutes. As in several other reviews at this session, including Finland and the United Kingdom, States did not use all of their time and the session finished early.


In her opening statement, Ms Spies extended a standing invitation to all special procedures, affirming the importance of the UN human rights system in light of her country’s candidacy for membership of the Council. She also elaborated on the infrastructure in place in the Netherlands for the enforcement of human rights, describing long-standing institutions such as the Ombudsman, and new developing institutions such as the newly established national human rights institution (NHRI) and the Children’s Ombudsman. She affirmed that the NHRI will comply with the Paris Principles.[1] Representatives of Aruba and Curaçao also made statements pertaining respectively to the modernisation of law in particular in relation to the juvenile justice system, and to the establishment of an NHRI.


After the usual praise and congratulations to the Netherlands on its efforts to implement recommendations from the first UPR cycle and on its setting up of an NHRI, States’ contributions to the interactive dialogue mainly revolved around discrimination, racism, xenophobia, hate speech, migrants’ rights, and the rights of women and children. The main recommendations stemming from the dialogue are the following:


  • To take all measures to prevent and eliminate all manifestations of racism, Islamophobia, xenophobia and religious intolerance
  • To address cases of discrimination against Muslims perpetrated through statements made in the media by political and public figures
  • To ensure that freedom of expression, press freedom, and Internet freedom do not lead to racism, intolerance and hatred against minority groups
  • To actively pursue a strict policy to end unfair pay differences between men and women, and to ensure equal access to the labour market
  • To review immigration policies to ensure they are in line with international human rights standards, and to take steps to reduce the rate of persons detained for reasons of illegal immigration
  • To ratify the Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (CMW); to consider ratifying ILO Convention 189 on domestic workers
  • To reduce detention of individuals solely for immigration purposes; to improve conditions of detention for asylum seekers
  • To consider additional measures to ensure that the interests of children are properly taken into account in provisions for asylum seeking families
  • To step up efforts to combat the sexual exploitation of children and prosecute perpetrators of such offences; to withdraw all reservations to the Convention on the Rights of the Child; to prohibit corporal punishment throughout the Kingdom of the Netherlands
  • To ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) and its Optional Protocol; to strengthen efforts to promote access of persons with disabilities to education and the labour market


During the interactive dialogue Ms Spies indicated that in relation to the CRPD and its Optional Protocol, the Netherlands is currently ‘mapping the consequences of its entry into force’ and that the draft act for ratification will be submitted to Parliament before the summer. However, the delegation dismissed the recommendations made by Mexico, Algeria, Argentina, Belarus, Ecuador, and other States on the treatment and protection of fundamental rights of migrant workers, which called on the Netherlands to ratify the CMW. Ms Spies justified the Netherlands’ position by mentioning the section of the Convention that provides for equal rights for lawful and unlawful migrants. She stated that ‘unlawful migrants do not pay taxes or social security; they should not receive the same rights, with exceptions made for the education of children, emergency care, and legal assistance’.


On migration issues, the head of delegation added that ‘the goal of Dutch society is to have a society where everyone can create a home and live in harmony’. In order to fulfil this goal ‘proactive measures, a desire to belong to Dutch society, and knowledge of the Dutch language’ are indispensable. As for the treatment of migrants, especially the conditions of detention of migrants and the fact that they are detained for the sole reason that they are migrants, Ms Spies gave assurances that ‘detention of migrants is of last resort, and that it cannot last longer than the time needed to arrange the return’ of the person to his or her country of origin. She emphasised that in light of the current political turmoil, it is up to Parliament to decide whether to decriminalise unlawful migrants.


All States, either implicitly or directly, made reference to the case of the extreme right-wing party leader, Geert Wilders. Mr Wilders is known for his anti-immigration and Islamophobic statements. In particular, Pakistan recommended appealing the verdict given on this case by the Amsterdam District Court on the charges of incitement to hatred and discrimination. Other States, such as Thailand and Bangladesh, worried that the exercise of freedom of expression ‘results in incitement to racism and xenophobia’. Ms Spies declared that the court acquitted Mr Wilders and found that because of his ‘status of politician and a Member of Parliament he should benefit from a broader freedom of expression to express his opinion’. The Government has no intention of appealing the verdict. To tone down the debate, the delegation continued by explaining the efforts the Government has made in order to combat racism, xenophobia, and discrimination, describing the framework put in place to that effect, which includes campaigns, local anti-discrimination desks, a special police task force, and legal provisions.


The Netherlands will communicate its position on the119 recommendations made to it no later than the 21st session of the Human Rights Council, in September 2012. 

[1] Principles relating to the Status of National Institutions


Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 June 2012 16:42
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