Netherlands
Head of state
Queen Beatrix
Head of government
Mark Rutte
Death penalty
abolitionist for all crimes
Population
16.7 million
Life expectancy
80.7 years
Under-5 mortality
4.4 per 1,000

A landmark court ruling held the government accountable for the conduct of its troops while they were serving as UN peacekeepers in Srebrenica. The detention of asylum-seekers and irregular migrants caused concern.

International justice

In July, the appeals court in The Hague ruled that the government had been responsible for the deaths of three Bosnian Muslims during the 1995 Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The court ruled that Dutch troops had forced the three to leave a “safe area”, effectively handing them over to Bosnian Serb forces, who went on to kill some 8,000 Bosnian Muslim men and boys.

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Refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants

In January, the European Court of Human Rights halted the return from the Netherlands to Somalia of two asylum-seekers from south and central Somalia, by issuing interim measures. The government subsequently suspended all returns to Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital. However, following a further European Court judgement in June, the government announced it would resume returns to Mogadishu of Somali nationals who did not belong to a vulnerable group and could travel to, gain admittance to and settle in areas of south and central Somalia without being at risk of ill-treatment. There were no reported deportations of Somali nationals to south and central Somalia by the end of the year.

At least 180 Iraqis were forcibly returned to Bagdad, Iraq, contrary to the advice of UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

Most asylum claims were processed using the new eight-day asylum procedure. Of these, over 50 per cent received a determination of their claim within the eight days. There was concern that this procedure may impede asylum-seekers from substantiating their claims and result in the rejection of well- founded claims.

According to government figures 3,220 irregular migrants and asylum-seekers were taken into detention between January and June. They were held in detention centres under a regime designed for remand prisoners. Alternatives to detention were rarely used. In July, the Minister for Immigration and Asylum announced a small-scale pilot project to test alternatives to detention.

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Discrimination

In September, the government announced it would begin drafting legislation to ban the wearing in public of clothing intended to conceal the face. A violation of the ban would be punishable with a fine of up to €380. If implemented the ban would have a disproportionate effect on women who chose to wear a burqa or niqab as an expression of their identity or beliefs.

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