Dutch police more likely to stop ethnic minorities

Ethnic minorities are more likely to be checked by Dutch police than ethnic Dutch, according to a report by international human rights watchdog Amnesty International.

The report argues that the practice of ethnic profiling in the Netherlands transcends the level of isolated incidents and occurs in identity and traffic controls, preventive searches and checks on illegal residences.

Amnesty director Eduard Nazarski said that the police are now expected to act proactively, that is by performing stop checks, and ethnic minorities are seen as a risk or "suspicious."

"As a result," he argued, "they are more often checked or searched. This may not necessarily be discriminatory, but it is if there is no objective justification for it.

What is ethnic profiling?

According to the report, ethnic profiling is often based on unconscious assumptions and common stereotypes about ethnic minorities, in both the organisation and individuals.

Where profiling has no objective justification, says Amnesty, it should be regarded as discrimination, regardless of intent and whether individuals were aware of its potential discriminatory effect.

In the Netherlands, the prohibition against discrimination is laid down in Article 1 of the Constitution and other legislation and police and law enforcement organisations fall within the express scope of this prohibition.

"Human Rights Treaties oblige the Dutch state to prevent discrimination in all its forms and fight to achieve de facto equality," states the report.

International criticism

Concern about ethnic profiling in the Netherlands has previously been expressed by various experts and international human rights bodies, including the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations and the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance.

They have both called on the Dutch government to act against ethnic profiling, but so far, according to Amnesty, the Dutch government has barely acted on these recommendations.

Dutch police reaction

National police chief said Amnesty’s criticism was "unfounded and untrue".

"The core of police work is to distinguish between right and wrong. A policeman on the street is therefore looking for deviant behaviour. Such considerations relate to many factors such as location, time or age, but also the appearance and behaviour of people or, for example, the type of vehicle.

"Recent events and security developments in a specific area are also important. All of these factors have an effect on the decision to speak one person and not to another."

Bouman called on anyone who felt they had been a victim of ethnic profiling to report it to the police. He promised that if any police officers were found to be discriminating, the police will take action and learn from it.

Ombudsman’s reaction

The national Ombudsman, on the other hand, said that discrimination was part of police culture and asked them to recognise themselves in Amnesty’s picture.

He said that ethnic profiling occurs in various places, including on the street, the train or at customs, and that police rely on their intuition. That, according to the Ombudsman, should not be a pretext for discrimination.

Sources: Amnesty International, NRC

Alexandra Gowling


Alexandra Gowling

Alexandra is an Australian citizen and an experienced expat, having spent (quite a bit of) time in Asia before coming to the Netherlands a year ago. She enjoys writing, reading...

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