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TITLE:  THE NETHERLANDS HUMAN RIGHTS PRACTICES, 1994
AUTHOR:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
DATE:  FEBRUARY 1995









                        THE NETHERLANDS


The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy with a 
parliamentary legislative system.  Executive authority is 
exercised by the Prime Minister and Cabinet.  The bicameral 
Parliament is elected through nationwide proportional voting.

The military, police, royal constabulary, and investigative 
organs concerned with internal and external security are 
effectively subordinated to the executive and judicial 
authorities.

The economy is based on private enterprise, but also features 
extensive involvement by governmental entities.  A complex 
social welfare system provides a high level of social benefits.

The Netherlands attaches great importance to human rights.  
Dutch law protects individual rights, and both the state and 
the general public respect them.  The press, public interest 
groups, and domestic and international human rights 
organizations are quick to challenge practices which they 
believe violate established human rights norms.  Such 
complaints are thoroughly discussed by the media and in 
Parliament and are often subjected to a judicial process.

In 1994 the treatment of minorities, immigrants, and asylum 
seekers was the subject of much debate, particularly in the 
context of the campaign for the May parliamentary elections.  
The racist political parties fared poorly in those elections, 
and there has been increased public concern about isolated 
incidents of violence against minorities.

In most respects, there are no significant differences in human 
rights practices between the Netherlands proper and the 
autonomous regions of the kingdom, i.e., Aruba and the five 
islands of the Netherlands Antilles.  The exception appears to 
be, according to persistent reports, excessive use of force by 
police in the islands.

RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Section 1  Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including 
           Freedom from:

     a.  Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing.

There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial 
killings.

     b.  Disappearance

There were no reports of disappearance.

     c.  Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading 
         Treatment or Punishment

Torture and cruel or inhuman punishment are prohibited by law 
and were not known to occur in the Netherlands proper.  
However, in response to persistent reports of police 
mistreatment of suspects and prisoners in the Netherlands 
Antilles and Aruba, the Government of the Netherlands Antilles, 
at the instigation of the Dutch Government, established a 
commission in 1991 to investigate the subject.  This commission 
reported in 1992 that there was no pattern of police brutality, 
but that verifiable incidents had occurred on every island but 
Saba.  In 1994 the Netherlands Antilles Government responded to 
this report by establishing an independent commission with 
investigatory powers to respond to complaints from the public 
alleging police brutality, and by initiating a training program 
to professionalize the police force, with substantial financial 
support from the Government of the Netherlands.

There were complaints about prison conditions on Curacao and 
St. Maarten in 1993, including allegations of beatings, lack of 
access to medical personnel, and overcrowding.  In 1994 these 
complaints prompted an official investigation by the Public 
Prosecutor on St. Maarten and a program of prison improvements 
on Curacao.  In March the investigation formally cleared the 
prison guards of the charges of brutality.  In another response 
to the complaints, the Antillean Government persuaded the Dutch 
Ministry of Justice to send a mission to study the prison 
system on the islands.  The mission reported its findings in 
September, and the Antillean Minister of Justice has pledged to 
follow the reorganization plan outlined in the report.

     d.  Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

Freedom from arbitrary arrest is provided for by law and 
respected in practice.  Preventive detention is permitted only 
if national or municipal authorities declare an emergency.  On 
such occasions, however, the detention may only be for a 
limited time.  Under normal circumstances a suspect may be held 
for no longer than 6 hours (or 9 hours if arrested at night) 
before charges must be brought.  The Public Prosecutor may 
allow a 48-hour detention of persons suspected of having 
committed serious crimes, and has authority to extend it to 96 
hours.  An investigating judge must authorize any further 
extensions.  There are no political prisoners.  The Netherlands 
does not practice forced exile.

     e.  Denial of Fair Public Trial

The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary and a 
right to a fair public trial.  The Dutch court system provides 
for the right of appeal.  Charges must be formally stated, and 
the accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty.  
Defendants have the right to counsel; free or low-cost legal 
assistance is provided for the indigent.

     f.  Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or 
         Correspondence

In most criminal cases, a judicial warrant is required to enter 
a person's home or to monitor private correspondence or 
telephone conversations.  The State respects individual freedom 
of choice in family matters.

Section 2  Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

     a.  Freedom of Speech and Press

A functioning democratic political system, an independent 
press, and an effective judiciary ensure freedom of speech and 
press.  Dutch media policy allocates broadcast time to a wide 
range of social, political, and ethnic groups, ensuring that 
minority viewpoints are heard.

There are no prepublication restraints on the media.  A 
traditional consensus effectively prevents the mainstream media 
from disseminating sensitive information involving national 
security, defense, or the royal family.  Violent or sensational 
crimes are treated discreetly, with suspects and victims often 
identified only by their initials.  In ongoing investigations, 
only minimal personal data are released on criminal suspects.  
The law prohibits incitement of hatred.  Courts may ban a 
political party at the request of the Public Prosecutor on the 
grounds of the party's discriminatory, racist, or violent 
character; but this provision has never been invoked.

     b.  Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Freedom of assembly and association is virtually unrestricted.  
For large assemblies and political demonstrations, permits from 
local authorities are required.  These permits are routinely 
granted unless authorities believe that "public order and 
safety" cannot be guaranteed.  Public meetings of extreme 
rightist or racist groups have been prohibited from time to 
time.  The Government does not arbitrarily impede membership 
in, or the formation of, organizations.

     c.  Freedom of Religion

There is full freedom of religion.  State subsidies are 
provided to religious organizations that maintain educational 
facilities.

     d.  Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign 
         Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation

There is full freedom of domestic and foreign travel, 
emigration, and repatriation.

The Netherlands has elaborate asylum procedures which take into 
account conditions in the applicant's country of origin.  
Applicants who do not meet the criteria for political asylum 
are nevertheless permitted to stay, without refugee status, if 
conditions in their country of origin would place them in 
danger.  In January a new asylum law came into effect, 
proscribing consideration of asylum requests by applicants 
whose previous requests were turned down by the Netherlands.

Despite some tightening of regulations and procedures, asylum 
is still relatively easy to obtain.  The number of asylum 
seekers trended dramatically higher than in 1993.  After polls 
showed that the public considers this a major domestic problem, 
the Pa1liament passed legislation in December making applicants 
ineligible for asylum if they come from a country the law 
designates as a "safe country of origin" or if they arrive by 
way of a "safe third country" where asylum is possible.

Section 3  Respect for Political Rights:  The Right of Citizens 
           to Change Their Government

The Netherlands is a functioning multiparty democracy.  
Elections are based on proportional representation.  There is 
universal suffrage for citizens aged 18 and older.  Foreign 
residents may vote in municipal elections after 5 years of 
legal residence.  Citizens elect the second chamber (House of 
Representatives) of Parliament every 4 years (sooner if a 
government resigns or falls).

There are no restrictions in law or in practice on the 
participation of women and minorities in government and 
politics.  The Government continues to seek to increase the 
number of female candidates for elected office.  Only modest 
gains have been scored on the local level over the last 3 
years, but women have fared better on the national level, due 
in part to efforts by political parties to feature more women 
on their election lists.  The second chamber of Parliament now 
counts 49 women among its 150 members, up from 44 before the 
recent elections.  In the Cabinet of the new Government, a 
record 4 of 13 ministers are women.

Section 4  Governmental Attitude Regarding International and 
           Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations 
           of Human Rights

Human rights groups, the media, and other interested parties 
are free to pursue inquiries into human rights issues, and 
Dutch authorities readily assist international and 
nongovernmental organizations in their investigations.

Section 5  Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, 
           Disability, Language, or Social Status

The law bans discrimination on the basis of any of these 
factors or on sexual orientation or political preference.  A 
new Equal Treatment Act came into force on January 1, 1994,  
which allows complainants to take offenders to court under 
civil law.

     Women

There is increased awareness in the Netherlands that abuse of 
women is a problem that needs to be aired and addressed.  
Accordingly, the Government materially supports programs to 
reduce and prevent violence against women.  Battered women find 
refuge in a network of government-subsidized shelters offering 
the services of social workers and psychologists.  Battered 
women who leave their domestic partners become eligible for 
social benefits, including an adequate basic subsidy as well as 
an allowance for dependent children.  There are also 
organizations that advise and assist women who have been 
victims of sexual assault.  Spousal rape or abuse each carry 
the same penalty as the same crime against other persons.

The Social Ministry, citing recent research indicating that 
one-third of all working women have experienced sexual 
harassment in the workplace, initiated legislation to address 
this problem.  In July the first chamber of Parliament passed 
an antiharassment amendment to the Workers' Conditions Act 
requiring employers to take measures to protect workers (of 
either sex).  The Government--the nation's largest 
employer--has instituted such measures in the civil service, 
and it runs an ongoing campaign to publicize the problem.

Women are increasingly entering the job market, despite 
traditional constraints and inadequate child-care facilities.  
Although more than 40 percent of the Dutch work force is now 
female, many women work only part time.

The social welfare system provides considerable assistance to 
working women with families.  Women are eligible for 16 weeks 
of maternity leave at full pay.  The parental leave law allows 
parents (of either sex) to work only 20 hours a week over a 
6-month period; since the enactment of the law in 1991, 27 
percent of eligible women have used this benefit, and 11 
percent of eligible men.

On the other hand, many women work in low-level administrative 
or service jobs, and women often have less chance of promotion 
than male colleagues.  The unemployment rate of women 
reentering the labor market is high.  Legislation mandates 
equal pay for equal work; prohibits dismissal because of 
marriage, pregnancy, or motherhood; and provides for equality 
in other matters regarding employment.  A legislatively 
mandated equal-treatment commission deals with complaints on 
these matters.

Women have the same legal and judicial rights as men.  Upon 
marriage, a couple may sign a prenuptial agreement to preserve 
individual ownership of their respective assets, or they may 
declare their assets joint property.

     Children

The Government is committed to ensuring the well-being of 
children through numerous well-funded health, education, and 
public information programs.  The Council for the Protection of 
Children, which operates under the Ministry of Justice, 
enforces child-support orders, investigates cases of child 
abuse, and recommends remedies ranging from counseling to 
withdrawal of parental rights.  In addition, the Government has 
set up a popular hot-line for children, along with a network of 
pediatricians who look for indications of child abuse and also 
track suspected cases.

     National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

A study by the University of Leiden and the Dutch Public Safety 
Service found that the number of incidents of violence against 
foreigners and ethnic minorities has increased over recent 
years.  The study tallied about 350 reported racially motivated 
1993 incidents, and estimated that there were a significant 
number of unreported incidents as well.

The Government has been trying, through publicity campaigns and 
legislative initiatives, to increase public awareness of racism 
and discrimination.

The main immigrant groups in the Netherlands are from the 
former Dutch colony of Suriname, the Netherlands Antilles, 
Aruba, Turkey, and Morocco.  Concentrated in the larger cities, 
they suffer high unemployment.  The Government has been working 
for several years with employers' groups and unions to reduce 
this to the national average rate.  As a result, over the past 
year the rate of job creation among ethnic minorities has been 
higher than among the general population.  But with the influx 
of immigrants still growing, the unemployment problem remains 
difficult to overcome, especially during the current recession 
in the Netherlands.

The municipalities of Rotterdam and Amsterdam have a number of 
programs, many funded in part by the national Government, to 
promote integration of ethnic minorities.  Several focus on 
education and vocational training for minority children.  
Others seek to bring persons of different cultures together and 
prevent flare-ups in certain neighborhoods.

A law effected July 1 requires employers with over 35 employees 
to register with the local Chamber of Commerce the number of 
their employees who identify themselves as members of a 
non-Dutch ethnic group.  People who do not wish to be 
identified as ethnically non-Dutch are not required to 
register.  Employers must submit confidential affirmative 
action plans, including recruitment targets and proposed means 
of attaining them.

     People with Disabilities

Government-funded programs for the disabled include subsidies 
to adapt housing and public transportation, day-activity 
centers, and incentives to employers to hire the handicapped.  
Local governments are increasingly mandating access to public 
buildings for the disabled.  Since 1992, there has been a 
national telephone line to report structural obstacles to 
handicapped access or mobility on public property.

Section 6  Worker Rights

     a.  The Right of Association

Membership in labor unions is open to all workers, including 
military, police, and civil service employees.  People are 
entitled to form or join unions of their own choosing without 
previous government authorization, and unions are free to 
affiliate with national trade union federations.  This right is 
freely exercised.

Unions are entirely free of control by the Government and 
political parties.  They may and do participate in political 
activities.

All workers have the right to strike, except most civil 
servants (who have other institutionalized means of protection 
and redress).  The right to strike is exercised freely, but the 
number of strikes each year is very low.  There is no 
retribution against striking workers.

     b.  The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively

The right to organize and bargain collectively is recognized 
and well established.  Discrimination against workers because 
of union membership is illegal and does not occur.

Collective bargaining agreements are negotiated in the 
framework of the social partnership developed among trade 
unions and private employers.  Representatives of the main 
union federations, employers' organizations, and the Government 
meet each autumn to discuss labor issues, including wage levels 
and their relation to the state of the economy and to 
international competition.  The discussions aim to develop a 
"central accord" with social as well as economic goals for the 
coming year.  Under this umbrella agreement, unions and 
employers in various sectors negotiate sectoral agreements, 
which the Government usually extends to all companies in the 
respective sector.  As a result, collective bargaining 
agreements cover three-quarters of the labor force.

Antiunion discrimination is prohibited.  Union federations and 
employers' organizations form the "social partnership" and are 
represented, along with independent experts, on the Social and 
Economic Council.  The Council is the major advisory board to 
the Government on its policies and legislation regarding 
national and international social and economic matters.

There are no export processing zones.

     c.  Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor

Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by the Constitution 
and does not occur.

     d.  Minimum Age for Employment of Children

The minimum age for employment is 16, and for full-time work it 
is conditioned on completion of the mandatory 10 years of 
schooling.  Those still in school at age 16 may not work more 
than 8 hours per week.  People under age 18 are prohibited by 
law from working at night, overtime, or in areas dangerous to 
their physical or mental well-being.  The laws are effectively 
enforced by the Labor Commission, which monitors hiring 
practices and conducts inspections of work sites.

     e.  Acceptable Conditions of Work

The minimum wage for adults is established by law and may be 
adjusted every 6 months to changes in the cost-of-living 
index.  Since 1982 few adjustments have been made, and the rise 
in the minimum wage has lagged well behind the rise in the 
index.  The minimum wage is $1,243 (2,163 Dutch guilders) per 
month.  Fewer than 3 percent of all workers get the minimum 
wage.  Sectoral wage contracts usually fix a minimum that is 
high above the legislated minimum wage.

For workers under age 23 the minimum ranges from 33 percent of 
the adult minimum (for those aged 16) to 85 percent (for those 
aged 22).  The legislated minimum wage, together with social 
benefits available to all who receive only that, provides an 
adequate living for workers and their families.

The standard workweek in the Netherlands is 40 hours.  The 
workday, fixed by law, cannot exceed 8 1/2 hours a day.  There 
are legislated curbs on work during nights and weekends.  In 
December, Parliament approved some deregulation of workhours to 
encourage flexible work schedules, and delegated limited 
authority to localities to make decisions on workhours.

Working conditions, including all safety and health standards 
set by law and regulations, are actively monitored and 
effectively enforced by the Labor Commission.  The Ministry of 
Social Affairs also polices standards, through its Labor 
Inspectorate.  Workers may refuse to continue work at a 
hazardous site.

(###)

[end of document]

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