Dutch human rights institute critical of “disproportionate” arrest of climate protesters
Authorities in the Netherlands have placed an enormous strain on the public’s right to demonstrate by preemptively arresting environmental activists before a planned protest over the weekend, said the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights in a statement on Tuesday. Additionally, the Institute pointed to the work of University of Groningen researcher Berend Roorda who said that environmental activists and Black Lives Matter demonstrators are treated disproportionately harshly when compared to those from Farmers Defense Force.
The Institute noted the activists arrested last week were held on suspicion of sedition, and were banned from the area where the protest took place, a section at the end of the A12 motorway in The Hague. “The arrests show that the right to demonstrate is under serious pressure,” the Institute said. "Using criminal law instruments to prevent the organization of a demonstration is an extremely serious means that is not easy to justify."
In addition to the six taken into custody before the protest, 768 arrests were made at the demonstration itself. Two of those suspects were journalists covering the rally, which was originally organized by Extinction Rebellion. With the massive number of arrests, the authorities in the Netherlands run the risk of stifling debate, and curtailing the right to criticize the government.
On top of that, the Institute was very concerned about how the Netherlands has seemingly failed to treat all demonstrators the same, regardless of their perspective. “Whether it's farmers demonstrating against climate-protecting nitrogen policies, or climate activists calling for faster government action to combat climate change, the government must protect and realize the rights of both groups of protesters equally,” the Institute noted.
“Double standards are not allowed. However, this seems to be the case,” the statement continued.
The organization said that it is the responsibility of the government to dutifully protect the right to demonstrate, and even facilitate protests that are critical of government policy. “Using criminal means such as arresting, interrogating and prosecuting organizers for sedition, even before the demonstration has taken place, is an extremely harsh means,” the Institute said.
“It can have a paralyzing effect: it can prevent others from exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful protest. And that means that the use of this remedy cannot easily be justified.”
Reporting by ANP