Fewer than 10 per cent of municipal governments had addressed discrimination and racism at a local level, either through general policies or action plans, according to Amnesty International research published in April. Fewer than 20 per cent of local authorities had developed policies to combat discrimination and racism in specific areas of concern, such as employment or education.
Although most municipalities indicated that they considered discrimination was not a problem in their community, more than half acknowledged that they lacked sufficient information about its occurrence.
In February the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed concerns about the lack of data on violence against women, and the persistence of racism in the Netherlands, particularly against women and girls.
‘War on terror’
In February the “Act on expanding the scope for investigating and prosecuting terrorist crimes” came into force. It provided for an increase, to two years, of the maximum period of pre-trial detention for people charged with terrorism offences.
War crimes allegations
In June the Standing Review Committee on the Intelligence and Security Services and an ad hoc Commission of Inquiry delivered separate reports concluding that allegations of torture of detainees by Dutch Military Intelligence personnel in Iraq in 2003 could not be substantiated.
Neither the Committee nor the Commission interviewed the detainees involved.
The government postponed the introduction of measures that would make it easier to withdraw residence permits from non-nationals convicted of a crime. However, it announced plans to increase the use of exclusion orders against those designated as “undesirable aliens” for violatons of immigration regulations.
In January the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the decision of the Dutch Immigration Service to expel Somali national Abdirizaq Salah Sheekh to a “relatively safe” area within Somalia, would have violated Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which forbids torture and other inhuman or degrading treatment, had it been put into effect.
In June a so-called “amnesty” (pardonregeling) scheme came into effect. Under the scheme, residence permits were granted to foreign nationals who had applied for asylum before 1 April 2001, under the former Aliens Act, and had been present in the Netherlands since then, even if their applications had previously been rejected. The scheme also applied, in most cases, to their spouses and children. However, it did not extend to those who had been denied refugee status because they were suspected of having committed crimes against humanity or war crimes, nor to their spouses and children. It was estimated that the amnesty would affect 30,000 people.