KINGDOM OF THE NETHERLANDS
Head of state Queen Beatrix
Head of government Mark Rutte
The newly elected coalition government proposed criminalizing unlawful residency and instituting a partial ban on the wearing of full face veils. Immigration detention continued to be used excessively. Legal, constitutional or institutional developments
In September, the government confirmed its intention to develop a national human rights action plan in response to a recommendation during the Universal Periodic Review in May.
In October, the newly established national human rights institution began its work.
Refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants
Immigration detention continued to be used excessively, despite the introduction of pilot alternative schemes for particular categories of migrants and asylum-seekers. Conditions in immigration detention centres largely mirrored those in criminal detention facilities.
The transparency of the Commission for Comprehensive Supervision of Return (Commissie Integraal Toezicht Terugkeer, CITT), the body overseeing forced removals and one of the national preventative mechanisms under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, remained limited. Annual reports published by the CITT do not include specific data on the use of force in individual removal proceedings.
In October, the new coalition government proposed criminalizing unlawful residency, leading to concerns over further marginalization and increased vulnerability of undocumented migrants.
In October, the coalition government proposed adopting measures to combat discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and ratifying the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
However, it also proposed a partial ban on the wearing of full face veils by women on public transport and in health centres, schools and government buildings. This raised concerns that the prohibition would violate the freedoms of expression and religion of women who choose to wear the burqa or niqab as an expression of their identity or beliefs.
Ongoing concerns of discriminatory practices by law enforcement officials, including ethnic profiling, remained.
In April, the Dutch Supreme Court delivered a judgement on whether the UN Protection Force (UNPROFOR) could be held responsible for deaths of Bosnian Muslims during the 1995 Srebrenica genocide. The Court ruled that the UN held immunity from prosecution before national courts. The families of the victims appealed the decision to the European Court of Human Rights.
Amnesty International visits/reports
- Europe: Choice and prejudice – discrimination against Muslims in Europe (EUR 01/001/2012)
- Netherlands: Amnesty International urges implementation of recommendations on immigration detention, discrimination and developing a national human rights action plan (EUR 35/001/2012
The rights of asylum-seekers were at risk of being undermined by a new bill. Levels of child poverty continued to be high, disproportionately affecting Māori (Indigenous People) and Pacific Island peoples. Violence against women remained widespread, but the authorities failed to collect sufficient data on how such violence affected women, especially those from minority groups.
Legal, constitutional or institutional developments
A government-sponsored review of the country's constitutional arrangements continued. The review was mandated to consider a range of constitutional issues, including whether there should be a written Constitution. By October 2012, the Constitutional Review Panel had met with 56 organizations; however, open public consultations had yet to occur by the end of the year.
In May, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights expressed concern that such rights had yet to be incorporated into the Bill of Rights Act 1990. It also highlighted New Zealand's failure to sufficiently protect Indigenous Peoples' rights to their lands, territories, waters, maritime areas and other resources.
Child poverty remained high. An August study by the Ministry of Social Development identified up to 270,000 children as living in poverty, about 47% of whom were from Māori or Pacific Island peoples.
In July, the CEDAW Committee considered New Zealand's periodic report and expressed concern at persistently high and increasing levels of violence against women. The Committee criticized New Zealand's failure to collect sufficient statistical data on violence against women, especially against Māori women, migrant women and women with disabilities.
Rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people
In August, the Marriage (Equality) Amendment Bill passed the first of three readings, with 80 votes for and 40 against. The bill sought to clarify the definition of marriage as contained in the 1955 Marriage Act. The new bill would allow marriage between two people regardless of their sex, sexual orientation or gender identity. The bill remained pending.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
In April, the Immigration Amendment (Mass Arrivals) Bill was introduced to Parliament. The new bill allowed for indefinite detention of asylum-seekers arriving by boat in groups of more than 10 people, as well as limitations on family reunification and access to judicial review. The bill gave the authorities new powers to suspend the processing of asylum claims. The bill had not been passed by the end of the year.