Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1985

The Netherlands is a parliamentary democracy under a
constitutional monarch. A special feature of the Dutch
political system is nationwide proportional voting for
Parliament where the full range of the political spectrum is
The Dutch have a free market economy with a large social
welfare system providing a relatively high level of social
benefits .
The Dutch attach great importance in their foreign and
domestic policies to human rights. Internationally recognized
rights are protected by Dutch law and respected in practice.
The most significant development in 1985 was a government
memorandum on return migration which emphasized that the
return of foreign nationals legally resident in the
Netherlands to their own countries was entirely a voluntary
matter .
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including
Freedom from:
a. Political Killing
Killing for political motives by government or domestic
political groups has not occurred.
b. Disappearance
Abductions, secret arrests, and clandestine detention by
police or other official security forces has not occurred.
c. Torture and Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or
Torture and cruel or inhuman punishment are prohibited by law
and do not occur in practice. Prison conditions are good by
international standards.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Freedom from arbitrary arrest and imprisonment is guaranteed
by law and respected in practice. There are no political
prisoners in The Netherlands. A right of release from
detention exists in practice. Preventive detention is
permitted only in times of emergency, upon declaration, for a
limited time by national or municipal authorities. This power
is used infrequently, and normally a person can be held no
longer than 6 hours unless charges are brought. Exile is
unknown in The Netherlands. There is no forced labor.
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 assistance exists for
those unable to pay for such counsel . Charges must be
formally stated. The judiciary is independent, with a
functioning appeals process and a Supreme Court.
f . Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or
A judicial warrant is required to enter a person's home or
monitor private correspondence. The State respects individual
freedom of choice in family matters.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Rights, 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. A feature of media policy is the
allocation of broadcasting time to all social and political
groups, which ensures that minority viewpoints are heard.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Freedom of assembly and association is not restricted.
Various private interest groups exist and play an active role
in the political process.
The right of unions to organize and bargain collectively is
well established. The active trade union movement includes in
its membership approximately 32 percent of the employed labor
force. Unions are entirely free of government and political
party control and may participate in political life. They are
free to maintain relations with recognized international
bodies in their fields.
All union members, except civil servants, have the legal right
to strike. The interests of civil servants are safeguarded by
an arbitration committee. Moreover, the Government is
considering proposing a bill that would permit most civil
servants to strike, except those who provide vital services,
such as air traffic controllers and sold. State
subsidies in the educational field are provided to religious
organizations which maintain educational facilities. The
amount of the subsidy is based on the number of students
attending the schools.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign
Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
There is freedom of domestic and foreign travel, emigration,
and repatriation in The Netherlands. Restrictions are not
placed on residence. The Netherlands has provided first
asylum for refugees from Eastern European countries and
permanent resettlement for a limited number of persons,
principally from Eastern Europe and Vietnam.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens
to Change Their Government
The Netherlands is a functioning multiparty democracy.
Nationwide elections are held every 4 years (or more
frequently in the event of a parliamentary vote of
no-confidence) . In the most recent elections in September
1982, a center-right coalition came to power replacing a
center-left government. Political parties are numerous (13
have seats in Parliament) and represent all points of view,
from the far right to the far left. Women have full political
rights and are increasingly represented in political life.
Approximately 20 percent of the members of the lower house of
Parliament are women.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations
of Human Rights
The Netherlands has not been the subject of international
human rights investigations. There are a number of Dutch
groups interested in human rights abroad, as well as national
chapters of international organizations such as Amnesty
International. The Netherlands Government is active in the
United Nations Human Rights Commission and other international
forums concerned with human rights.
Amnesty International's 1985 Report did not mention the
Netherlands. Freedom House rated the Netherlands "free."
The Netherlands has a population of 14,481,000, and per capita
gross national product was just under $10,000 in 1983. The
right to private property is protected in the Dutch market
economy .
The welfare state is well established, with an extensive
system of cash and tax benefits to assist the unemployed and
handicapped and to provide adequate educational and health
opportunities to all citizens. Average life expectancy is 76
years, and the infant mortality rate is 8.1 per 1,000 live
births. Primary education is universal.
The minimum age for employment of young people is 15. At 15
years of age, they may work full-time only if they have
completed the mandatory 10 years of schooling. Children still
in school at age 15 may not work more than 8 hours per week.
Laws prohibit children under the age of 18 from working at
night, from working overtime, and from working in areas which
could be dangerous to their physical or mental development.
Dutch law adequately protects the safety and health of
workers. The average workweek for adults is 38 hours.
Workers 18 years and older receive a minimum of 15 days paid
vacation per year. Full-time workers between the ages of 15
and 18 receive a minimum paid vacation of 20 days per year.
Wages are sufficient to provide a decent living for workers
and their families.
Women enjoy full legal and political equality in The
Netherlands. In economic life, the entry of substantial
numbers of women into the labor force occurred somewhat later
in The Netherlands than in most Western industrialized
countries. The Government and most political parties continue
to advocate special consideration for women in order to
further progress in the area of economic equality.
The problem of effectively integrating Dutch racial and ethnic
minorities into national economic and social life is perhaps
the most difficult human rights related issue confronting the
Dutch Government . Thousands of persons from the former Dutch
colony of Suriname and The Netherlands Antilles have come to
live in The Netherlands in recent years. In addition, there
are significant numbers of foreign guest workers, mostly from
Turkey and Morocco. These groups face some overt
discrimination in housing and employment, as well as practical
limits on opportunities for social and economic advancement
caused by inadequate educational levels compared to the
majority of Dutch citizens. There is a widespread fear among
the Dutch that discrimination, prompted by difficult economic
times throughout The Netherlands, is increasing. There have
been isolated instances of violence against persons for racial
reasons during the past 2 years.
Government policy to combat discrimination is outlined in its
1983 "Minority Note." This document is a comprehensive plan
of action to address the problems of minorities in the fields
of health, education, employment, and the law. It works from
a basic premise that maximum integration of racial minorities
into broader Dutch society is the only way to achieve full
equality. The report includes sections to address the special
problems of minorities, youth, and women.
In 1985, the Government sent to Parliament a policy memorandum
on return migration. The memorandum was designed to clarify
the return policy, first outlined in the 1983 Note. There had
been criticism of aspects of the policy which proposed
financial "incentives" for those foreign-born persons who wish
to return to their former country of residence. The 1985
memorandum made clear that return migration was entirely
voluntary. Financial assistance is provided to assist certain
foreign nationals who wish to leave The Netherlands but lack
the means to do so. In an experimental program to last
1 year, workers between the ages of 55 and 64 who have been
legally resident in The Netherlands for not less than 5 years
and have been unemployed for not less than 6 months may be
eligible to receive payment of the costs of the return journey
and regular Dutch social security benefits.