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Netherlands: Avenues of legal or administrative redress available to victims of a human rights violation

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada
Publication Date 24 September 2004
Citation / Document Symbol NLD43009.E
Reference 7
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Netherlands: Avenues of legal or administrative redress available to victims of a human rights violation, 24 September 2004, NLD43009.E, available at: [accessed 21 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

According to Sanne Taekema, author and assistant professor specializing in jurisprudence at Tilburg University, "the general opinion in the Netherlands is that Dutch human rights protection is very good" (Understanding Dutch Law 2004). A number of avenues are available to victims of human rights violations through which to seek redress (ibid.; The Netherlands n.d.a; Kreuger 8 Dec. 2001). Examples follow.

Chapter 9 of the General Administrative Law Act, in place since 1999, establishes rules governing the implementation of internal complaints procedures by administrative authorities, who have a "statutory duty ... to deal properly with complaints from individual citizens" (The Netherlands 2003, 3). In a survey of administrative authorities undertaken in 2002, the national ombudsman of The Netherlands found that most bodies had made progress in implementing complaints mechanisms as called for under the Act (ibid.). However, the study also identified certain areas of concern, including the fact that 15 per cent of complaints were not resolved within the established time limit and 13 per cent of bodies surveyed had failed to advise complainants that they were entitled by law to seek recourse through the national ombudsman (ibid.).

According to its Website, the office of the national ombudsman was established to "give individuals an opportunity in addition to existing provision[s], such as Parliament, the judiciary and internal complaints procedures to place complaints about the practices of government before an independent and expert body" (ibid. n.d.a). Complaints must be made in writing and pertain to acts that occurred within the last year (ibid. n.d.c). Provided that complaints meet certain criteria, the office will launch an enquiry and subsequently publish a report outlining its findings and decision (ibid. n.d.b). Although the national ombudsman enjoys "a number of far-reaching statutory powers of investigation," its decisions are not legally binding (ibid.). In 2003, the office reportedly received 10,518 complaints (ibid. n.d.c) and published 504 reports of its investigations (ibid. n.d.b).

The Equal Treatment Commission (Commissie Gelijke Behandeling, CGB) is an independent body, established in 1994, that accepts complaints pertaining specifically to violations of the country's equal treatment laws (ibid. n.d.d), which prohibit discrimination on the basis of "religion, belief, political orientation, race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, marital status," disability, age or employment status (ibid. n.d.e). Any individual who believes he or she has been subjected to discrimination may file a complaint with the CGB (ibid. n.d.f). Following an assessment of the complaint to ensure that it falls within the CGB's mandate, the Commission will launch an investigation and render a decision as to whether or not the law had been violated (ibid. n.d.g). Although the CGB does not have any legal authority to enforce its decisions, they are "usually" complied with in practice (ibid.). The Commission received 238 new complaints in 2003 and made 166 decisions, of which 80 were findings that an equal treatment law had in fact been violated (ibid. 2004).

Many Dutch cities also have anti-discrimination bureaus (antidiscriminatiebureaus, ADBs) which serve as

low-threshold [facilities] to which people can turn with complaints about discrimination, questions, advice and support. ADBs are important co-operation partners of the Public Prosecutions Department and the police as far as penal aspects of discrimination are concerned. However, most complaints about discrimination are solved by ADBs by means of mediation (Kreuger 8 Dec. 2001).

ADBs throughout The Netherlands received 3,467 complaints in 2003, down from 3,926 the previous year (Landelijke Vereniging van Anti Discriminatie Bureaus 7 July 2004, 10).

In addition to seeking assistance from domestic bodies responsible for investigating and ruling on human rights-related complaints, Dutch citizens also have the right to bring their complaint to the European Court of Human Rights, once other avenues of redress have been exhausted (Understanding Dutch Law 2004). The Court has reportedly found The Netherlands to be in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights in a number of instances (ibid.).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection.


Kreuger, Marcel. 8 December 2001. "Combating Racism in The Netherlands: The View of the Dutch National Bureau Against Racial Discrimination (LBR)." NGO Forum Conference, Stockholm. [Accessed 16 Sept. 2004]

Landelijke Vereniging van Anti Discriminatie Bureaus. 7 July 2004. Jaaroverzicht Discriminatieklachten bij Antidiscriminatiebureaus en Meldpunten. [Accessed 23 Sept. 2004]

The Netherlands. 2004. Commissie Gelijke Behandeling (CGB). "Fact Sheet 2003." [Accessed 17 Sept. 2004]
_____. 2003. National Ombudsman. Annual Report 2002. [Accessed 22 Sept. 2004]
_____. n.d.a. National Ombudsman. "Role of the National Ombudsman; Impact of his Work." [Accessed 16 Sept. 2004]
_____. n.d.b. National Ombudsman. "Opening the Investigation; Questions of Jurisdiction and Admissibility." [Accessed 16 Sept. 2004]
_____. n.d.c. National Ombudsman. "Investigation." [Accessed 16 Sept. 2004]
_____. n.d.d. Commissie Gelijke Behandeling (CGB). "Home." [Accessed 22 Sept. 2004]
_____. n.d.e. Commissie Gelijke Behandeling (CGB). "Equal Treatment Law." [Accessed 22 Sept. 2004]
_____. n.d.f. Commissie Gelijke Behandeling (CGB). "Filing a Complaint." [Accessed 22 Sept. 2004]
_____. n.d.g. Commissie Gelijke Behandeling (CGB). "The Procedure?" [Accessed 22 Sept. 2004]

Understanding Dutch Law. 2004. "Introducing Dutch Law." Edited by Sanne Taekema. The Hague: Boom Juridische uitgevers. [Accessed 22 Sept. 2004]

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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