Judge rules on ethnic profiling by Royal Netherlands Marechaussee

On June 15, the District Court of The Hague will hear the case on ethnic profiling by the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee (KMar). A coalition of citizens and civil society organizations has summoned the State to appear in court. The current policy of the KMar allows ethnicity to play a role in border controls. This leads to discrimination and therefore the coalition asks the court to put an end to this.

What is the problem?

During border controls, marechaussees select people partly on the basis of their external appearance, skin color, or origin (ethnicity). Moreover, the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee works with risk profiles that include ethnicity. For example: men who walk fast, are well dressed, and are said to look ‘not Dutch’. Jelle Klaas, lawyer at PILP-NJCM: “That is a form of discrimination that is in violation of human rights and Dutch law and is therefore prohibited.”

The impact of ethnic profiling

Ethnic profiling has negative consequences. It is harmful for the people it affects, contributes to stigmatizing ethnic minorities, erodes trust in the government and proves ineffective in fighting crime. Mpanzu Bamenga, one of the plaintiffs: “You try to stay calm, but it is still a humiliating experience. You get singled out while others are allowed to walk through.”

“The stakes are high.”

The lawsuit revolves around the question of whether the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee may select people for a check partly on the basis of their appearance, skin color or presumed origin (ethnicity). The question for the court is therefore whether ethnicity, in combination with other criteria, may be part of a risk profile. The judge’s ruling on that question will have broader impact. Dionne Abdoelhafiezkhan, of Control Alt Delete: “There is a lot at stake. We know that not only the KMar but also the police and other law enforcement agencies work with ethnically loaded risk profiles. We hope that the judge will quickly put an end to this form of discrimination.”

About the plaintiffs

Acting as plaintiffs in this case are: Amnesty International, Control Alt Delete, the Dutch section of the International Commission of Jurists (NJCM), anti-discrimination facility RADAR and two ‘non-white’ citizens who have been repeatedly ethnically profiled by the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee. The proceedings are coordinated by the PILP-NJCM and the parties are also assisted by lawyers from Houthoff. “The work Houthoff does takes place at the heart of society, where equality must be at the core. We are therefore proud to contribute to this fundamental and important case”, says Thijs van Aerde, of Houthoff.

There will be a livestream from the court in The Hague. Interested parties can follow the case via https://www.rechtspraak.nl/Organisatie-en-contact/Organisatie/Rechtbanken/Rechtbank-Den-Haag/Nieuws/Paginas/Praktische-informatie-over-rechtszaak-Amnesty-International-cs-tegen-Koninklijke-Marechaussee—.aspx.

For more information about this case, click here; for a direct link to our summons, click here.