Dutch court upholds Schengen ban for British conspiracy theorist David Icke
A Dutch court in Haarlem upheld an earlier decision to ban David Icke from entering the Schengen Area. State Secretary Eric van der Burg imposed a two-year ban on Icke shortly before he was scheduled to speak at a rally on Dam Square in Amsterdam in November 2022.
The court said in the ruling released on Tuesday that it agreed with the state secretary's reasoning in imposing the ban. Van den Burg issued the ban believing Icke to be "a potential threat to public order." Icke rejected that argument, saying that people who are only "potential" threats, and not actual threats, may be banned by the State. Banning people considered potential threats is a blow to free speech rights, he said.
The decision for the entry ban was based on Icke's writing, his speeches, and reports from the police and the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV), which indicated the risk Icke's presence would bring to the Netherlands. "This states that openly and uncritically discussing conspiracy theories can lead to social acceptance of anti-Semitism, xenophobia or racism," the court noted in a statement. If these statements are viewed in the context of the Netherlands as a whole, it can lead to "national figures being regarded as elite groups that wish to keep society in their control, or where prominent persons, administrators and civil servants are dehumanized and democratic principles are rejected."
While acknowledging Icke's right to freedom of expression and association, the court emphasized on Tuesday that these rights have their limits. The court also noted Icke's ability to express his views through alternative means and underlined that the state secretary had no other option at his disposal to ensure public order.
Icke is the purveyor of a conspiracy theory that claims humanity is secretly ruled by alien reptiles masquerading as humans. According to critics, the reptiles are a metaphor for a secret ruling class of elites made up mainly of Jewish people. He was set to speak on November 6 at a demonstration in Amsterdam organized by the anti-government coalition, Samen voor Nederland. However, the day before, the Van der Burg denied him access to the entire Schengen Area for two years. He is the Cabinet member responsible for Dutch immigration policy as the state secretary for justice and security.
In December, the preliminary relief judge ruled the State Secretary's decision to implement the entry ban was just. Icke, who claimed he also wished to spend Christmas with his in-laws in the Netherlands, had challenged the decision and requested the court to temporarily lift the ban. Icke's legal advisor, Jeroen Pols, also argued that the ban severely infringes on the rights to demonstrate and freedom of expression. The court, however, ruled the interest of public order outweighs Icke's own interest, saying, "Denying access to the Schengen Area is the only effective way to prevent Icke from coming to the Netherlands."
Icke appealed the decision, arguing that the perceived "potential" threat he poses should not be seen as being identical to known threats to public order. He said he believes his rights to freedom of expression and association stand in opposition to the ban. Icke emphasized that he should be allowed to spread his ideas as long as he does not advocate for violence or commit any crimes.
On Tuesday, the court again ruled in favor of the state secretary, holding that the reports available justified the rationale used to impose the entry ban. The court also maintained that the two-year ban was fair and emphasized that Icke could communicate his views differently. The court also upheld the opinion that the state secretary had no alternative to ensure public order.
"It also plays a role for the court that Icke made statements in his speech of November 6, 2022, and in the documentary about his life which could contribute to anti-government extremism. The court ruled that Icke cannot of course be held solely responsible for anti-government sentiment in the Netherlands, but that he can incite these feelings with his statements," the court said on Tuesday. "This can lead to extremists turning to (violent) resistance against democratically elected institutions or persons."
Reacting to the verdict on his website, David Icke wrote, “Not a word in the media or ‘alternative’ media about my possibly indefinite ban from 26 European countries [plus Australia] being confirmed by a Dutch court.”
Icke has four weeks to decide if he wants to appeal Tuesday's verdict. If he moves forward with an appeal, it would be heard by the Administrative Jurisdiction Division of the Council of State, the highest administrative court in the Netherlands.