When in 2017 multiple human rights defenders were detained in Morocco, this led to commotion, also in the Netherlands. A group of civilians wanted to speak out against by organising a protest, a symbolic hunger strike, in front of the Moroccan embassy in The Hague.
The police sent an email, on behalf of the mayor of The Hague, to the protest organisers. The email stated that the protest couldn’t take place: the protest wasn’t allowed in front of the consulate, not in the nightly hours, nor in the form of a hunger strike. The latter because the bystanders might get offended by the hunger strike.
The protest organisers decided to cancel the protest and to litigate the mayors decision.
To start a legal procedure about the right to protest and the imposed restrictions, one first has to overcome the juridical difficulty of establishing whether the message sent by the police was a ‘decision’ within the meaning of law.
On this the protest organisers started a court case that went from the municipality, to the district court, and eventually to the administrative high court, the Council of State.
In these lawsuits the protest organisers were supported by PILP-NJCM and lawyer Alexander IJkelenstam of law firm CMS (via Pro Bono Connect).
On October 9th 2019 the Council of State decided the protest organisers were right: the email by the police was indeed a decision by the mayor that was open for objection.
The case was sent back to the mayor.
On December 5th 2019 the mayor of The Hague finally also agreed on the content: it was never the intention to impose any restrictions on the protest. We are very pleased with the results.
We also expect the practical consequences to be that future symbolic hunger strikes in front of the embassy will not be restricted by the mayor anymore.