Head of government Jan Peter Balkenende
Death penalty abolitionist for all crimes
Population 16.6 million
Life expectancy 79.8 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f) 6/5 per 1,000
Asylum-seekers were transferred to Greece, despite continuing concern about their lack of access to a fair asylum-determination procedure there. Accelerated asylum-determination procedures, detentions of asylum-seekers and migrants, the extension of pre-trial detention and the denial of legal assistance during police questioning of criminal suspects gave rise to concern.
Refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants
Following a court ruling in May, the government resumed transfers of asylum-seekers to Greece for determination of their asylum claims under the "Dublin II" Regulation, despite serious concerns about asylum-determination procedures and detention conditions in Greece.
In June, the government proposed amendments to the Aliens Act. If implemented, many asylum claims would be processed within eight days, including in complex cases. In July, the UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) expressed concern that existing "accelerated procedures", allowing determination of asylum applications within 48 working hours, and the proposed eight-day procedure, might not allow asylum-seekers to substantiate their claims adequately, putting them at risk of forcible return.
According to government figures, thousands of irregular migrants and asylum-seekers were taken into immigration detention centres during the year and held on a remand regime. Those detained included vulnerable individuals, such as trafficking and torture survivors, with little consideration given to alternatives to detention. Even unaccompanied minors, whom the government asserted had no legitimate claim to remain or reside in the Netherlands, continued to be detained.
Some people whose immigration detention began in 2008 were held for more than 12 months, as Dutch law provides no maximum time limit on immigration detention.
Counter-terror and security
In March, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern at measures adopted by the authorities with the stated aim of combating terrorism, including: vague and broad definitions of crimes that may lead to unjustifiable restrictions on human rights and freedoms; provisions under the Investigation and Prosecution of Terrorist Offences Act permitting detention on mere suspicion of a "terrorist crime"; and an extension of maximum pre-trial detention from 90 days to two years for people charged with "terrorism offences".
The HRC expressed concern about the denial of legal counsel for criminal suspects during police questioning and possible pre-trial detention periods of up to two years. It criticized certain provisions of the Witness Identity Protection Act, which allow the defence to be excluded during the questioning of witnesses whose identity has been withheld from the defence for "national security reasons". It also expressed concern about the power of local mayors to issue administrative "disturbance orders", allegedly to combat terrorism, without judicial authorization or oversight of the measures imposed under such orders.
Guantánamo Bay detainees
In July, the government stated that it would consider accepting the transfer of some individuals detained at the US naval base at Guantánamo Bay.