State of the rule of law – Part II: debate summarized

On Tuesday, June 21, the Senate continued the debate on the rule of law with Ministers Yeşilgöz-Zegerius for Justice and Security and Weerwind for Legal Protection and State Secretary Uslu for Culture and Media. The rule of law is a political debate that, since 2014, has in principle been held every two years. The last debate on the rule of law took place in March 2020 with the Rutte III cabinet. The House will vote on the ten proposals tabled during the debate on Tuesday 28 June.

The debate on the rule of law started on Tuesday 31 May with Parliament’s first parliamentary term. Four proposals were made in Parliament’s first parliamentary term. Senator Hiddema (Frentrop Group) gave his maiden speech.

A total of ten proposals were submitted.

  • The Bezaan et al. Proposal calls on the government not to approach other countries in any way about alleged abuses of democracy, the rule of law and human rights until the abuses in the Netherlands have been adequately addressed and resolved. Minister Weerwind advised against this proposal.

  • Another proposal by Senator Bezaan asks the government to give the people the opportunity to express themselves in a referendum when concluding international treaties. This proposal was also discouraged by Minister Weerwind.

  • The Baay-Timmerman and others decision asks the Minister to consider whether the temporary measure to appoint retired judges during additional criminal hearings, if necessary, can last after the said deadline has expired by extending this period by at least 2 years. With this proposal, Minister Weerwind handed over the verdict to the Chamber.

  • The proposal from Otten et al. asks the government to terminate the cooperation with public prosecutor Pels Rijcken, taking into account an orderly conclusion of the current cases. Minister Yeşilgöz has advised against this proposal.

  • The Rombouts et al proposal asks the Senate President, in consultation with the senior board, to form a committee that will come up with proposals on how the Senate can best organize a self-reflection process.

  • The proposal from Nicolaï et al. asks the government to set up a committee of specially authoritative lawyers tasked with assessing, on the basis of the facts available so far, whether Dutch soldiers or authorities were guilty of criminal acts during the Indonesian war. independence and to share the committee’s report with Parliament. Minister Yeşilgöz asked the petitioner to maintain the proposal.

  • Another proposal by Senator Nicolaï asks the government to examine whether and, if so, in what way there is a basis for providing compensation to conscripts convicted of conscription or desertion committed between 15 August 1945 and 31 December 1949 , and to submit this to Parliament’s report. Minister Yeşilgöz also asked the petitioner to continue with this proposal.

  • The Talsma and others proposal notes that institutions such as the Supreme Court, the Council of State, the Ombudsman, the Judiciary Council, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the legal profession regularly draw attention to bottlenecks in the legislation in their annual reports and worry about the effects of legislation in practice. each year and send them – accompanied by a government response – to both Houses of General States. Minister Weerwind handed over the verdict to the Chamber on this proposal.

  • The Van Dijk et al. Proposal notes that litigation from interest groups based on section 3: 305a of the Dutch Civil Code can have a major impact on society, while it is often about specific interests that can only be weighed to a limited extent in the broader public interest and calls on the government to know the extent to which, on the basis of this article, additional requirements are to be imposed with a view to representativeness to interest groups with an idealistic goal. This proposal was discouraged by Minister Weerwind.

  • The proposal Backer et al. calls on the Ministers of Justice and Justice to follow up, in particular, on institutional strengthening so that their integrated responsibilities can be carried out more effectively, and to report to Parliament from 2023 onwards. Minister Weerwind said: forward the verdict to Parliament.

Impressions of the debate on 21 June

Minister Yeşilgöz for Justice and Security

At the beginning of his answer to Parliament’s questions, Minister Yeşilgöz-Zegerius reflected on former Senator and legal scholar Willem Witteveen, one of the initiators of the biannual debate on the rule of law. Witteveen was killed in the MH17 disaster over Ukraine on July 17, 2014. “It is as sad as it is ironic that he was killed at the hands of the same aggressor who invaded that country this year. Russia’s brutal indifference to “The rule of law shocked us then and shocks us now. so much the more realizing how precious and vulnerable are peace, security and justice at the same time. It is my mission, our mission, to nurture, defend and strengthen our rule of law,” the minister said. She called Willem Witteveen’s ideas a source of inspiration: “It appeals to me in particular that he often insisted that ordinary people should uphold the rule of law.” According to Yeşilgöz, it is necessary for the rule of law to have practical significance for people in their daily lives.

In the rest of her reply, she addressed Parliament’s concerns about subversive and organized crime. The minister said it is necessary to invest heavily in prevention so that little boys do not become big criminals. Their family and environment are also involved. Yeşilgöz, who is involved in monitoring and protecting endangered people, replied that she wanted every possible effort made in both the private and working life of the person being protected to ensure their safety. It just can not live up to that, partly due to capacity problems.

On the reduced freedom of the press, the Minister said that it is her duty to ensure the freedom of journalists as much as possible. The ‘PersVeilig’ initiative was established in collaboration with the Dutch Journalists’ Association (NVJ). PersVeilig is an initiative from NVJ, the Association of Editors-in-Chief, the Police and the Public Prosecutor’s Office and aims to strengthen the journalists’ position against violence and aggression. The cabinet stands for freedom of speech, Yeşilgöz said. Therefore, it speaks again and again against threats and intimidation. Every effort is also made to prevent such threats. There is also a common pot of money for freelance journalists to accommodate them elsewhere in the event of, for example, a threat. The government is working hard to make the disclosure of address information a criminal offense.

In response to questions about the criminal justice chain, Yeşilgöz said additional resources have been made available to the police, the Public Prosecutor’s Office (OM) and the judiciary. She went on to say that aggression against aid workers is unacceptable. This is now also legally established with a ban on community service (the relevant bill is currently being considered in the Senate). She did not share the conclusion from, among others, GroenLinks and SP’s parties that the Dutch rule of law is in crisis. Finally, Minister Yeşilgöz promised to send a letter to Parliament in response to questions about former Prime Minister Colijn and his role in the former Dutch East Indies.

Minister Weerwind for legal protection

Minister Weerwind also quoted a former senator, Ernst Hirsch Ballin, who is also a former Minister of Justice, who in his latest publication vigilant citizenshipcalls for greater vigilance on the part of both politicians and citizens. On guard, so we better recognize development and change in society and the feeling of abandonment in the other. On guard so we are receptive to signals that things may be going wrong. Minister Weerwind said: “I fully agree with this call. As a government, we can offer legal protection by preventing injustice and repairing injustice. A high degree of vigilance is indispensable for this.”

In a strong rule of law, citizens are also protected from government, according to Weerwind. That did not happen in the benefit case. You must want to earn yourself trust, to start by reflecting on your own work from the state powers (legislative, executive and judicial power). The cabinet is working to reduce the human dimension, with legislation hitting people unusually hard, Weerwind said.

The minister said the government will also start with the constitutional revision as set out in the coalition agreement. Before the summer holidays, he and the Minister of Justice and Security send a letter to the Chamber on the constitutional revision. There is also a draft assignment for the State Rule of Law Committee. That committee is being drafted in consultation with all three powers. The childcare benefit case has shown that every state power must take into account its relationship with society. Representatives of the state powers must realize that they should not take the seat of any of the other state powers.

Weerwind also recognized the legal profession as an important counterforce. He attaches great importance to access to justice. As a result, among other things, the fees for legal aid have been updated more. He went further into the dust comb operation to clean up old legislation. According to him, it is a very time consuming operation. According to him, it is important to focus on the quality of new policies. Adaptation is only possible if there are laws and regulations that make it easier, the minister said. Finally, after Minister Yeşilgöz, Weerwind said that the media should be able to continue working independently.

State Secretary for Culture and the Media

State Secretary Uslus also spoke about the importance of press freedom in our rule of law. She looks at what we can learn from how other countries guarantee the safety of journalists. She looks in particular at what she can learn from the position of female journalists. On average, they are more bothered by threats, shows conversations she has had. There will be an action plan for the summer holidays.

Strengthening the local media is a spearhead. In the coming years, investment will be made in local journalism and media, including social media, which will have the full attention of the Secretary of State. In response to the status of a study on the possibilities of combating misinformation in public broadcasting (a previous commitment to the Senate), Uslu said that this issue will be included in the political review of public broadcasting.

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