Undocumented migrants continued to be deprived of their rights. New security legislation threatened to undermine human rights and the rule of law. Ethnic profiling by police continued to be a pressing concern, as was the use of Tasers in day-to-day policing.
Refugees’ and migrants’ rights
The number of people in immigration detention increased, after years of decline. Insufficient attention was given by the authorities to alternatives to detention, while the necessity and proportionality of an individual’s (continued) detention were also insufficiently assessed. A draft law on amending immigration detention rules was pending at the end of the year. Although the bill offered minor improvements, the detention regime would remain “prison-like” in terms of facilities, detention conditions and the use of disciplinary measures, including isolation cells and use of handcuffs.
Despite a deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, the Netherlands continued to forcibly return asylum-seekers whose claims were rejected to Afghanistan, including families with children, in breach of the principle of non-refoulement.
Right to an adequate standard of living
The authorities remained unwilling to implement a recommendation by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to put in place a comprehensive strategy to ensure that everyone, including undocumented migrants, enjoys the minimum essential levels of all Covenant rights (such as the rights to food, housing, health, water and sanitation) and ensure this is supported by adequate funding.
Counter-terror and security
In March, two anti-terrorism laws came into force for individuals suspected of being a threat to national security. The first allowed for administrative control measures on individuals, including travel bans and restrictions on movement and contact with certain persons, without providing sufficient safeguards against arbitrary and discriminatory use. The second administrative law enabled the revocation of Dutch nationality of dual citizens who are suspected of having travelled abroad to join an armed group. The laws did not provide for a meaningful and effective appeal.
In July, the law on the Intelligence and Security Services was adopted. It gave sweeping surveillance powers to intelligence and security services, threatening the rights to privacy, freedom of expression and non-discrimination. Safeguards against abuse of these powers were insufficient. Serious concerns remained about the possibility of information-sharing with intelligence agencies in countries that might use such information to target human rights defenders and government opponents.
Any person suspected or convicted of terrorism-related offences continued to be automatically placed in a specialized high-security prison where they were subjected to inhuman and degrading treatment.
Police and security forces
In order to address ongoing ethnic profiling, the police introduced a professional standard and a training module to promote the fair and effective use of their stop-and-search powers. However, the impact of this remained unclear, as there was no systematic monitoring and recording of how these stop-and-search powers were executed in practice.
In February, the police began piloting the use of Taser X2 electro-shock weapons. Police records between February and August showed that Tasers were used in situations where there was no imminent threat of death or serious injury. In almost half of the cases, persons were tasered in direct contact mode, including when already handcuffed, inside a police cell or vehicle, and in a separation cell in a psychiatric hospital. This usage is inconsistent with international human rights standards.
Freedom of religion and belief
A government proposal for a ban on face-coverings in certain public spaces was pending before the Senate at the end of the year. The ban would restrict the rights to freedom of religion and of expression, particularly of Muslim women.