Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1989

The Netherlands is a constitutional monarchy with a
parliamentary legislative system. Executive authority is
exercised by a council of ministers representing the governing
political parties. A bicameral parliament, in which the full
range of the political spectrum is represented, is selected
through nationwide proportional voting.
The police and security organs are effectively subordinated to
the executive and judicial authorities.
The Dutch have a mixed free market economy with extensive
involvement by governmental entities. The Netherlands has a
complex social welfare system providing a high level of social
The Dutch attach great importance to human rights in their
foreign and domestic policies. The principal internationally
recognized rights are protected by Dutch law and widely
respected in practice by both the State and the general public.
The press, public interest groups, and both domestic and
international human rights organizations are quick to
challenge practices which they believe violate established
human rights norms. Such complaints characteristically
receive a full airing in the media, through the judicial
process, and in Parliament.
There are no significant differences in human rights practices
between the Netherlands proper and the autonomous regions of
the Kingdom: Aruba and the five-island Netherlands Antilles.
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
      a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
Killing for political motives by government or domestic
political groups did not occur.
      b. Disappearance
Abductions, secret arrests, and clandestine detention by
police or other official security forces did not occur.
      c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Torture and cruel or inhuman punishment are prohibited by law
and did not occur in practice.
      d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Freedom from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment is guaranteed
by law and respected in practice. Preventive detention is
permitted only in times of emergency, upon declaration, for a
limited time, by national or municipal authorities. The
practice of preventive custody is frequently used in drug
smuggling cases.
Under normal circumstances, a person may be held no longer
than 6 hours, or 9 if the arrest was made at night, unless
charges are brought. Persons suspected of having committed
serious crimes may be held in custody for 48 hours without
charge with the agreement of the public prosecutor, who is
also authorized to decide on an extension of another 48
hours. Any further decision on extending detention is made by
an investigating judge. In January the Netherlands was
criticized by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg
for holding suspects in custody up to 4 days and 9 hours
without access to a judge. The Court considered the Dutch
practice a violation of the European Convention on Human
Rights which guarantees arrested persons "immediate" access to
a judge. The Dutch Justice Ministry is currently
investigating how its procedures may be brought in line with
the Court's verdict. Search and arrest warrants issued by the
judiciary are required in most criminal cases.
Forced exile from the Netherlands is unknown. With regard to
forced or compulsory labor, see Section 6.c.
      e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The right to a fair public trial is guaranteed by law and
respected in practice. Defendants have the right to counsel,
and a system of free or low-cost legal assisx-ance exists for
those unable to pay. Charges must be formally stated. The
judiciary is independent. There are no political prisoners.
      f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
A judicial warrant is required to enter a person's home or to
monitor private communications. The State respects individual
freedom of choice in family matters.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
      a. Freedom of Speech and Press
An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a
functioning democratic political system combine to ensure
freedom of speech and press. Dutch media policy allocates
broadcasting time to a wide range of social and political
groups, ensuring that minority viewpoints are heard. There
are no prepublication restraints on any media, but there
exists a broad social understanding which precludes the
mainstream media from disseminating sensitive inform.ation
involving national security, defense, or the royal family.
Academic freedom is respected.
      b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Freedom of assembly and association are effectively
unrestricted. Permits are required from local governmental
authorities for large-scale assemblies and for demonstrations
of a political nature. Permits are granted on a routine basis
but may be denied when authorities believe that "public order
and safety" cannot be guaranteed as a result of a rally or
demonstration. Membership in, or the formation of,
organizations is not impeded by the Government except under
exceptional circumstances.
For a discussion of freedom of association as it applies to
labor unions, see Section 6. a.
      c. Freedom of Religion
There is full freedom of religion. State subsidies in the
educational field are provided to religious organizations
which maintain educational facilities. The subsidy is granted
on a fixed per student basis to both parochial and
nonparochial educational institutions.
      d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
There is freedom of domestic and foreign travel, emigration,
and repatriation. Due to the Netherlands' shortage of housing
in its major cities, there are some restrictions on the
allocation of government-subsidized housing.
The Netherlands has elaborate procedures for deciding asylum
applications, designed to give full respect to the due process
rights of applicants and to take into account conditions in
the applicants' countries of origin. In close cooperation
with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, the Netherlands
annually offers permanent resettlement to 500 refugees,
principally Iranians, Vietnamese, and Cambodians, who are in
temporary asylum in other countries. The Dutch provide
housing and social services to asylum applicants awaiting
decisions as well as to those awarded refugee status.
Applicants denied refugee status are requested to leave the
Netherlands, but a significant portion do not depart. The
Dutch Government rarely sends asylum seekers back to their
country of origin.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
The Netherlands is a functioning multiparty democracy.
Election results are decided on the basis of proportional
representation. There is universal suffrage for persons over
18 years of age, and foreign residents have the right to vote
in municipal elections. Dutch citizens elect the Second
Chamber of Parliament every 4 years (or more frequently in the
event a government resigns or is toppled by a parliamentary
vote of no confidence). The most recent national elections,
held in September, led to the formation of a center-left
government with Prime Minister Lubbers remaining in office.
Eleven political parties have seats in Parliament,
representing all points of view from the far right to the far
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The Government is responsive to allegations of human rights
violations arising both domestically and internationally. The
Dutch consider themselves to be in the forefront of
international concern over reported human rights abuses, and
Dutch authorities readily assist international and
nongovernmental organizations in their investigation. Support
for human rights is a key tenet of Dutch foreign policy. The
Netherlands is a strong advocate of human rights, both
bilaterally and in international forums, including the United
Nations and its agencies and the Conference on Security and
Cooperation in Europe. The Dutch have repeatedly spoken out
against human rights violations in all parts of the world.THE
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Language, or Social Status
The Dutch view the problem of fully integrating racial and
ethnic minorities into national economic and social life as
one of their most difficult domestic issues. Hundreds of
thousands of persons from the former Dutch colony of Suriname
and the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba have come to live in
the Netherlands since 1975. In addition, there are
significant numbers of foreign workers and their families,
mostly from Turkey and Morocco. These groups face some
private discrimination in housing and employment, as well as
practical limits on opportunities for social and economic
advancement as a result of educational levels that are
inadequate when compared to those of the majority of Dutch
citizens. Unemployment among minority groups runs
significantly higher than among the population as a whole.
The Government's longstanding policy of combatting
discrimination is outlined in its 1983 "Minority Note," a
comprehensive plan of action to address the problems of
minorities in the fields of health, education, employment, and
the law. The National Advisory and Consultation Board on
Minority Policy, which is incorporated by legislation into the
administrative structure of the country, is chaired by the
Minister of Internal Affairs and includes representatives of
seven ethnic minority groups. It acts as a consultative body
to the Cabinet on minority issues and as a conduit into the
Government for the expression of minority concerns.
Administrative tribunals have been set up for filing claims of
discrimination against employers and government and in housing
matters. They provide a practical means of redress for
discrimination claims.
Women enjoy full legal rights and enter marriage with the
choice of pooling wealth or maintaining separate assets.
According to a recent study ("Violence Against Women in
Heterosexual Relationships") financed by the Dutch Ministry of
Welfare, Health, and Culture, 20.8 percent of Dutch women in
heterosexual relationships are or have been the victims of
unreciprocated violence. Slightly over half of these (or 11
percent of women) experience or have experienced repeated
violence severe enough to be considered wife beating. The
Government supports programs to prevent or reduce violence
against women. Battered women find refuge in a network of
government-subsidized women's shelters which offer the
services of social workers and psychologists. In addition,
battered women who leave their husbands immediately become
eligible for an array of social benefits, including a basic
(and livable) subsidy as well as an allowance for any
dependent children.
Section 6 Worker Rights
      a. The Right of Association
The right of Dutch workers to associate freely is well
established. The active trade union movement includes in its
membership approximately 30 percent of the employed labor
force. Unions, while entirely free of government and
political party control, may and do participate in political
life. They are free to form federations and to maintain
relations with recognized international bodies. All union
members, except civil servants, have the legal right to
strike. Even Dutch military personnel are free to join
unions. Legislation is pending which would grant the right to
strike to civil servants not involved in "lifesaving"
      b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The right to organize and bargain collectively is recognized
and well established in the Netherlands. Neither in law nor
in practice is discrimination against union members practiced.
Dutch society has developed a social partnership between
government, private employers, and trade unions which grew out
of post-World War II reconstruction efforts. This "harmony
model of industrial relations" involves all three participants
in negotiating collective bargaining agreements. Every year,
the three participants develop a "central accord" with
agreed-upon social and economic goals for the nation.
Sectoral collective bargaining then takes place under the
umbrella of the "central accord."
There is a disagreement between the Government and the major
Dutch trade union confederation (FNV) over the degree of
government participation in the collective bargaining process
permitted by a series of laws passed in the 1980*s. This
legislation moved the status of quasi-public workers from
being "trend followers of the private sector" to being "trend
followers of the public sector." The status of quasi-public
workers is now closer to the status of government workers
whose salaries and terms of employment are determined by the
Government. A predecessor confederation of the FNV, the NW,
unhappy with this situation, appealed to the International
Labor Organization (ILO) under Convention 87. An ILO
fact-finding mission in 1985 essentially agreed with the
union's position. The Government continues to maintain that
its role in the discussion of salaries and terms of employment
does not constitute interference in the collective bargaining
process, and the FNV itself does not consider this
disagreement to be a worker rights issue.
There are no export processing zones in the Netherlands.
      c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by law and does not
      d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The minimum age for employment of young people is 16. At 16
years of age, youths may work full time only if they have
completed the mandatory 10 years of schooling. Those still in
school at age 16 may not work more than 8 hours per week.
Laws prohibit youths under the age of 18 from working at
night, overtime, or in areas which could be dangerous to their
physical or mental development. The Netherlands has a reduced
minimum wage for employees under age 23. The purpose of this
law is to provide incentives for the employment of young
people, one of the groups with the highest rate of
unemployment. Full-time workers 16 years and older receive a
paid vacation of at least 20 days per year.
      e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
Dutch law and practice adequately protect the safety and
health of workers. The average workweek for adults is 38
hours. There is minimum wage legislation, and the minimum
wage is approximately $6.00 per hour. This minimum wage,
together with social benefits available to all minimum wage
earners, provides an adeqisate living for workers and t.^>eir
families. For unemployed workers, an extensive system of
unemployment benefits allows recipients to maintain an
adequate standard of living