A Dutch court ruled on Wednesday that police can use ethnic origin as one of the criteria for selecting people for border checks, a legal defeat that rights activists vowed to appeal immediately.
The decision was made in a case brought against the government by two citizens, backed by human rights groups, who argued that they were selected for screening by officers of the country’s Marechaussee police because of their skin color.
Lawyers told the court that one of the plaintiffs, Mpanzu Bamenga, an Eindhoven city councilor who was born in the Congo, was selected for a check when he was returning to the Netherlands on a flight from Rome, in part because “no looked Dutch. “
“Every time I go back to my country, the Netherlands, they arrest me because of my ethnic origin,” Bamenga told The Associated Press.
“We expected that today the court would basically rule that ethnicity cannot be part of a risk profile, but the court ruled differently and that is very disappointing,” he added.
He said he was determined to move forward with the case for as long as it takes.
“We have a very big mission: a mission for equal rights, a mission for equal opportunities,” he said. “It is not a sprint … it is definitely a marathon. We know it will be a long road and we are willing to fight for it and we will.”
The Hague District Court ruled that ethnicity may be one of the criteria for distinguishing passengers, but not the only one. Checks are carried out at airports and on trains and buses in European Union destinations to prevent people from illegally entering and staying in the Netherlands.
“The court says that the checks, as carried out by the Royal Marechaussee, are not contrary to the prohibition of discrimination,” said spokeswoman Jeannette Honee.
Attorney Jelle Klaas called the decision a “missed opportunity” that “leaves the door open for ethnic profiling.”
Amnesty Holland, which was one of the NGOs that backed the case, said the ruling “not only jettisons international human rights law, but also tramples on article 1 of the Dutch constitution.”
“By ruling that the police can attack people based on skin color and race, the court has allowed a practice to continue that clearly violates the prohibition against discrimination. We will appeal this decision, “added the director of the NGO, Dagmar Oudshoorn.
The Defense Ministry, which is in charge of border police, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.
The case is set against the backdrop of a broader debate on race, inequality and discrimination in the Netherlands.
When the Black Lives Matter movement swept across the world last year, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte admitted that racial inequality was not just a problem in the United States.
“There are also people who live in the Netherlands who in that sense feel that they do not fit in completely, that they cannot play a full role in this society,” he said. “That is also a Dutch problem. There is racism here too. Here too there is discrimination. “
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism