Dutch police violating demonstrators' privacy on a massive scale: Amnesty International
The Dutch police violate protesters’ privacy on a large scale with unjustified ID checks, social media monitoring, drone surveillance at demonstrations, infiltration of group chats, and unannounced home visits, Amnesty International said in a report titled Unchecked Power. “Amnesty International wants this unauthorized surveillance of peaceful demonstrators to stop and to only be used if there is suspicion of a serious crime,” the human rights organization said.
Amnesty International is specifically critical of the police’s tendency to check protesters’ ID documents without cause. The information from an ID check at a protest is kept in the police database for five years, with additional details automatically drawn from the Municipal Personnel Records Database.
Interviews with dozens of protesters between September 2020 and November 2022 showed that this happens on a very regular basis, and that is against the government’s promises when it implemented the Compulsory Identification Act in 2003. The government made a firm promise that the law would not act as a deterrent. ID checks would only be allowed if strictly necessary for the police task,” Amnesty International said. “The police regularly ask peaceful demonstrators for their ID. This not only violates their right to privacy but also has a deterrent effect and can prevent people from demonstrating.”
“The police in the Netherlands have too broad power to determine for themselves who they stop and check during demonstrations,” said Dagmar Oudshoorn, director of Amnesty International Netherlands. “This creates a great risk of arbitrariness, discrimination, and abuse of power. We want the illegal identity checks to stop.”
The human rights organization pointed out that peaceful demonstration is a fundamental right in the Netherlands. But protesters experience police actions at demonstrations as intimidating and frustrating. Instead of secretly patrolling peaceful demonstrators, Amnesty International suggested that the police focus on their task - facilitating demonstrations from a position of trust. “Demonstrating is a right, not a favor,” the human rights organization said.
In a brief response, the police told NOS that their method of checking IDs and storing that information is not illegal. The automatic supplementation of personal data is necessary to contact a witness or declarant quickly, the police said. Nothing is done with that data unless a police officer specifically looks it up, the police said.