International Criminology World

World : Europe : Netherlands

The Dutch are primarily of Germanic stock with some Gallo-Celtic mixture. Their small homeland frequently has been threatened with destruction by the North Sea and has often been invaded by the great European powers.

Julius Caesar found the region which is now the Netherlands inhabited by Germanic tribes in the first century B.C. The western portion was inhabited by the Batavians and became part of a Roman province; the eastern portion was inhabited by the Frisians. Between the fourth and eighth centuries A.D., most of both portions were conquered by the Franks. The area later passed into the hands of the House of Burgundy and the Austrian Habsburgs. Falling under harsh Spanish rule in the 16th century, the Dutch revolted in 1558 under the leadership of Willem of Orange. By virtue of the Union of Utrecht in 1579, the seven northern Dutch provinces became the Republic of the United Netherlands.

During the 17th century, considered its "golden era," the Netherlands became a great sea and colonial power. Among other achievements, this period saw the emergence of some of painting's "Old Masters," including Rembrandt and Hals, whose works--along with those of later artists such as Mondriaan and Van Gogh--are today on display in museums throughout the Netherlands.

The country's importance declined, however, with the gradual loss of Dutch technological superiority and after wars with Spain, France, and England in the 18th century. The Dutch United Provinces supported the Americans in the Revolutionary War. In 1795, French troops ousted Willem V of Orange, the Stadhouder under the Dutch Republic and head of the House of Orange.

Following Napoleon's defeat in 1813, the Netherlands and Belgium became the "Kingdom of the United Netherlands" under King Willem I, son of Willem V of Orange. The Belgians withdrew from the union in 1830 to form their own kingdom. King Willem II was largely responsible for the liberalizing revision of the constitution in 1848.

The Netherlands prospered during the long reign of Willem III (1849-90). At the time of his death, his daughter Wilhelmina was 10 years old. Her mother, Queen Emma, reigned as regent until 1898, when Wilhelmina reached the age of 18 and became the monarch.

The Netherlands proclaimed neutrality at the start of both world wars. Although it escaped occupation in World War I, German troops overran the country in May 1940. Queen Wilhelmina fled to London and established a government-in-exile. Shortly after the Netherlands was liberated in May 1945, the Queen returned. Crown Princess Juliana acceded to the throne in 1948 upon her mother's abdication. In April 1980, Queen Juliana abdicated in favor of her daughter, now Queen Beatrix. Crown Prince Willem Alexander was born in 1967.

Elements of the Netherlands' once far-flung empire were granted either full independence or nearly complete autonomy after World War II. Indonesia formally gained its independence in 1949, and Suriname became independent in 1975. The five islands of the Netherlands Antilles (Curacao, Bonaire, Saba, St. Eustatius, and a part of St. Maarten) and Aruba are integral parts of the Netherlands realm but enjoy a large degree of autonomy.



The Netherlands is a prosperous and open economy depending heavily on foreign trade. The economy is noted for stable industrial relations, moderate inflation, a sizable current account surplus, and an important role as a European transportation hub. Industrial activity is predominantly in food processing, chemicals, petroleum refining, and electrical machinery. A highly mechanized agricultural sector employs no more than 4% of the labor force but provides large surpluses for the food-processing industry and for exports. The Netherlands, along with 11 of its EU partners, began circulating the euro currency on 1 January 2002. The country continues to be one of the leading European nations for attracting foreign direct investment. Economic growth slowed considerably in 2001-02, as part of the global economic slowdown, but for the four years before that, annual growth averaged nearly 4%, well above the EU average.

The Dutch economy is going into its sixth year of expansion, combining strong GDP growth with sharply falling unemployment and modest inflation. A tight labor market and firming inflation add to the danger of overheating of the economy. Only mildly affected by the crisis in emerging markets and a subsequent slowdown in the euro area, the Dutch economy expanded by 3.6% in 1999. Economic growth in 1999 was driven predominantly by investment and consumer spending, buoyed by sizable income gains resulting from a boom in asset prices. With job growth largely outpacing an expansion of the labor force, unemployment in 1999 fell to less than 3% of the labor force, a level last seen in the early 1970s. Consumer price inflation remained modest as the effects of higher crude oil prices and depreciation of the euro lifted the CPI in 1999 to 2.2%.

Strong 4.2% GDP growth in the first quarter of 2000 supports expectations of sustained growth also in 2000 and beyond. Sailing on the waves of strong world trade growth, the Dutch economy is predicted to expand by 4.3% in 2000 and to show 4% real growth in 2001. A tight labor market will lead unemployment to fall to a low of 2%. Consumer price inflation, on the other hand, is expected to firm to 2.6% in 2000, and to 3.4% in 2001. Labor market conditions and price developments have led the OECD to send out warnings for overheating of the economy. Dutch fiscal policy, aimed at striking a balance between reduction of public spending and cutting taxes, seems successful. For the first time since 1973, the central government budget ran a surplus (0.5% of GDP) in 1999. The stock of public debt fell in step from well over 67% in 1998 to 63.7% of GDP. The budget is forecast to run a surplus also in 2000 and 2001, while the stock of public debt will fall to 53.7% of GDP in 2001.



The French Napoleonic Penal Code was the governing body of law in the Netherlands between 1810 and 1886. With the foundation of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1813, the Constitution stipulated that Codes shall regulate substantive and procedural criminal law. Numerous attempts to draft a penal code were presented to the parliament. However, a lack of agreement on a system of sanctions prevented any of these drafts from being adopted.

The Dutch Criminal Code (also referred to as the Penal Code), which contained elements from the French, English and German systems, was adopted by parliament in 1886. It emphasized imprisonment as the principal disposition for serious, intentional criminal offenses. Less serious offenses and infractions were given sentences of detention. While the Criminal Code provided for a system of fines, the fines were intentionally kept so low by the legislators that this virtually prohibited them from being handed down, except in the most minor cases. Even with an emphasis on incarceration, sentences remained short and the Netherlands penal system was, and still is, characterized as a relatively lenient system.

The Criminal Code remained relatively intact until 1945. Since that time reforms have been introduced which have created new criminal offenses (e.g., hijacking, environmental pollution, computer-hacking, invasion of privacy and discrimination) and have decriminalized other acts (e.g., adultery, consensual homosexual acts between an adult and a juvenile over the age of 16).

Major reforms in the philosophy of punishment and the actual sanctions were introduced into the Criminal Code after 1945. One of the most important was the 1983 Financial Penalties Act, which expanded the court's ability to apply financial and accessory penalties. This introduced a shift in punishment philosophy from an emphasis on deprivation of liberty to a preference for fines and other penalties. Other reforms included introduction of suspended sentences (1986), automatic release from prison after having served 2/3 of a prison sentence longer than one year (1986), and the introduction of community service as a principal penalty.

Additionally, since not all crimes have been included in the Criminal Code, other statutes have been enacted and by-laws passed, which also cover criminal offenses. The main statutes are the Narcotics Drug Act of 1928, the Road Traffic Act of 1935, the Economic Offenses Act of 1950, and the Arms and Munitions Act of 1989. Violation of any of these statutes, laws, or by-laws constitutes a criminal offense with the exception of minor traffic violations, which constitute an administrative infraction amounting to a small financial penalty.

The French Napoleonic Code of Criminal Instructions served as the predecessor to the Dutch Code of Criminal Procedure. The Dutch Code, reflecting the Napoleonic Code with some modifications, was adopted in 1838. This inquisitorial code remained intact, despite numerous reform attempts, until 1926, when it was supplanted by the present Code of Criminal Procedure. Reforms introduced since 1945 have included the 1974 Act on Pretrial Detention and a 1983 reform introducing the "transaction." The transaction gives the prosecution the authority to decide on an out-of-court monetary settlement for an offense whose maximum penalty is 6 years, if the offender agrees to pay a certain amount of money to the Treasury.

Other major influences on the Dutch Code of Criminal Procedure have been introduced through the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ratified 1954) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ratified 1979). Neither document requires parliamentary ratification for implementation in Dutch courts. These documents supersede all other Dutch law. Other European Conventions concerning procedural law are to be found in the conventions on the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, on Transfer of Proceedings in Criminal Matters, on Extradition, on the International Validity of Criminal Judgments, and on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons. In addition, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, also determines the standards (anonymous witnesses, habeas corpus, undue delay) to be applied in Dutch courts.

Specific acts also determine procedural law. The Economic Offenses Act and the Narcotic Drugs Act dictate the procedural application of search and seizure in these specific instances which deviate from the standard established in the Code of Criminal Procedure.

All prohibited acts are classified either as crimes or felonies (misdrijven), infractions or transgressions (overtredingen). The legislature determines whether an offense constitutes a crime or an infraction.

Generally, serious offenses involving physical harm are classified as crimes or felonies (murder, intentional homicide, theft combined with violence). The classification of an offense determines the level of the court that will try the case at first instance. In general, transgressions are tried in cantonal courts and crimes are tried in district courts.

The revised Opium Act of 1976 dictates drug offenses in the Netherlands. Prohibited by law are drug trafficking offenses: "importation, exportation and transportation" and the sale and production of drugs. The Opium Act further prohibits the "preparation, cultivation, digestion, sale, supply or transport" of prohibited drugs. Drugs are classified by the National Criminal Intelligence Service (Centrale Recherche Informatiedienst), as either hard or soft drugs. Hard drugs include heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, amphetamine oil, amphetamine tablets, methadone tablets, and LSD. Soft drugs include hashish, hashish oil and marijuana.

While it is a criminal offense to sell or deal in both hard and soft drugs, the enforcement policy differs with soft drug use. The sale and use of small amounts of soft drugs, usually under 30 grams, is tolerated in coffee houses throughout the Netherlands. Additional restricted drugs are detailed in the Opium Act of 1976 under lists one and two.



The crime rate in Netherlands is high compared to other industrialized countries. For purpose of comparison, data were drawn for the seven offenses used to compute the United States FBI's index of crime. Index offenses include murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft. In the UN reports, murders are referred to as "intentional homicides." Aggravated assaults are referred to as "major assaults," and larcenies are referred to as "thefts." According to the United Nations Seventh Annual Survey on Crime, crime recorded in police statistics shows the crime rate for the combined total of all Index crimes in Netherlands to be 5801.04 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2000. This compares with 1951.92 for Japan (country with a low crime rate) and 4123.97 for USA (country with high crime rate). For intentional homicides, the rate in 2000 was 1.15 for Netherlands, 0.50 for Japan, and 5.51 for USA. For major assaults, the rate in 2000 was 277.54 for Netherlands, compared with 34.04 for Japan, and 323.62 for USA. (Note these data for Japan and Netherlands are for "total recorded assaults, since neither Japan nor Netherlands reported a figure for major assaults.) For rapes, the rate in 2000 was 10.36 for Netherlands, 1.78 for Japan, and 32.05 for USA. For robberies, the rate in 2000 was 117.17 for Netherlands, 4.07 for Japan, and 144.92 for USA. For automobile theft, the rate in 2000 was 241.01 for Netherlands, 243.81 for Japan, and 414.17 for USA. The rate of burglaries for 2000 was 573.25 for Netherlands, 233.45 for Japan, and 414.17 for USA. The rate for thefts in 2000 was 4580.56 for Netherlands, compared with 1434.27 for Japan and 2475.27 for USA. (Note that USA data were those reported to INTERPOL for year 2000, since USA has not yet reported this data to UN.) It should be noted that the high crime rate for Netherlands is owed predominantly to property crimes, particularly theft. The murder rate is low, and the rates for rape, robbery, and assault are medium compared to other industrialized countries.

While the rate of violent crime in the Netherlands is low, tourists are occasionally targeted, usually in conjunction with robbery attempts. Visitors to larger cities frequently fall prey to pickpockets, bag snatchers, and other petty thieves. While thieves may operate anywhere, the U.S. Consulate General in Amsterdam receives frequent reports of thefts from several specific areas. The train from Schiphol Airport to Amsterdam Central Station is particularly plagued by thieves, who often work in pairs. In those instances, one thief distracts the victim, often by asking for directions, while an accomplice moves in on the victim's momentarily unguarded handbag, backpack, laptop or briefcase. The thieves typically time their thefts to coincide with train stops so they may quickly exit. Within Amsterdam, thieves are very active in and around train and tram stations, the city center and public transport.

Confidence artists have victimized a number of Americans. Typically, this involves the U.S. citizen being contacted in the United States and advised of an inheritance or other offer - often originating in Africa - that requires their assistance and cooperation to conclude. The American is requested to forward advance payments for alleged "official expenses" and often asked to come to Amsterdam to conclude the operation. Several Americans have lost tens of thousands of dollars in such scams.



Between 1995 (Sixth Annual Survey) and 2000 (Seventh Annual Survey) the rate for all recorded Index offenses increased from 5977.74 to 5801.04 per 100,000 in Netherlands, an decrease of 3%. The rate of intentional homicide decreased from 1.77 to 1.15, a decrease of 35%. However, the rate for total recorded assaults increased from 180.92 to 277.54, an increase of 53.4%. The rate of rape increased from 9.14 to 10.36, an increase of 13.3%. The rate for robberies increased from 101.78 to 117.17 per 100,000, an increase of 15.1%. The rate for automobile theft decreased from 264.83 to 241.01, a decrease of 9%. The rate of burglaries decreased from 779.91 to 573.25, a decrease of 26.5%. Thefts decreased from 4639.39 to 4580.56, a decrease of 1.3%.



The judicial system is based on the Napoleonic Code.  A pyramidal system of cantonal, district, and appellate courts handles both criminal and civil cases.  The Supreme Court acts as the highest appellate court and ensures the uniform interpretation of the law.

The law provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforces this right with vigor.  In April both the judiciary and the public prosecutor introduced procedures whereby complaints can be filed for perceived impolite or rude treatment by either a judge or prosecutor.  The law instructs that defendants be fully informed at every stage of criminal proceedings.  In criminal trials, the law provides for a presumption of innocence and the right to public trial, to counsel (virtually free for low-income persons), and to appeal. 

The criminal justice legal process is divided into pretrial and trial phases. In the pretrial phase, intrusive measures such as telephone taps, searches of the person or premises are conducted to secure evidence. This is tempered through the provision of an attorney and notification to the suspect of the development of the case. The trial phase can be described as an accusatorial process. The purpose of the trial is to discover the truth. The court trial lacks some elements of a purely adversarial process in that while it is the judge who asks questions at the trial, attorneys are only allowed to ask supplementary questions, cross-examination does not exist.

Court decisions serve as a guideline for lower courts. However, there is no mandatory provision for a higher court's decision to be legally binding upon a lower court. In practice, though, lower courts will follow the decisions handed down by the Supreme Court. A reversal of a judgment of a lower court case by the Supreme Court does not alter the judgment of the case just reviewed, but it does affect subsequent judgments.

Prosecutors have almost omnipotent powers to settle cases outside of court through the use of the conditional waiver and transaction. Both measures are procedural options available to the prosecutor and to the police, although on a much more limited basis. These measures can be used to dispose of cases without having to bring them to court. The conditional waiver resembles an informal system as few conditions exist within it to limit prosecutorial decisions. The prosecutor has an almost unlimited flexibility in the conditions assigned to the accused (more so than the options available to the judge when handing down a sentence or attaching specific conditions when handing down a suspended sentence.) While transaction exists as a means of keeping the accused out of the formal court system, detailed legislative regulations exist to restrict the transaction procedure.



The organization of the police was established through the 1957 Police Act. This act provided for the division of the police into two separate forces: the municipal (gemeentepolitie) and the national police (rijkspolitie). Municipalities with a population over 25,000 have their own municipal police. Rural areas are patrolled by the national police.

There are 148 municipal police forces. Duties of municipal police include patrol, criminal investigation, traffic, and special units (e.g. juvenile, immigration matters, special laws, vice), and administrative matters. The degree of specialization is determined by the size of the force.

The Municipal police fall under the supervision of the Minister of Internal Affairs through the provincial governors. The management, control and administration of the municipal police is the responsibility of the mayor. The public prosecutor, however, serves as the senior investigator and is given authority over all criminal investigative tasks of the police in every community. In recent years, the prosecutor has taken a more active role in working with the police on investigations.

The national police are a centralized organization under the administrative control of the Ministry of Justice. In addition to specialized units, the national police has the responsibility for providing law enforcement to rural areas. For this purpose they are divided into 17 districts with each district being further divided into smaller sections. Each subsection has between 9 and 53 state police officers working in that area. The responsibilities of these state police officers resemble those of the municipal police.

The national police have several special units. For instance, the Federal Water Police (Rijkspolitie te Water), which is divided into 4 districts, is responsible for police actions on the coastal and territorial waterways. The Aviation Service (Dienst Luchtvaart), is responsible for the patrolling of airports and the investigation of air traffic accidents as well as environmental crimes. The General Traffic Service (Algemene Verkeersdienst or AVD) is responsible for traffic control on the highways. It also maintains all information concerning traffic violations for dissemination to other police stations.

Other Federal Police Units include the Military Police Force (Koninklijke marechaussee), which is led by the Ministry of Defense and is responsible for guarding the borders and other police functions at places under the control of the Ministry of the Defense. The National Criminal Intelligence Service (Centrale Recherche Informatiedienst or CRI) falls under the administrative auspices of the Ministry of Justice. The CRI serves as the national clearinghouse for information on crime prevention and control. It analyzes information, co-ordinates investigations, and assists municipal police at their request. The CRI employs both civilians and detectives and serves as the Interpol National Central Bureau.

The CRI is divided into three departments. The General Administration Department handles administrative matters such as translations, personnel, security and domestic services. The Police Information Department has sections on Information, Circulations, Police Records, Central Fingerprint, and Photography. Finally, the Criminal Investigation Department includes the following branches: Narcotics, Special Unit, Organized Crime, Firearms, Fraud, Counterfeits, Art and Antiques, Stolen Motor Vehicles, and Criminal Intelligence.

Other special investigative law enforcement agencies exist at both the municipal and federal levels and are restricted by the types of offenses which they may investigate. For instance, on the national level, the Ministry of Economic Affairs or the Internal Revenue Ministry have special investigative units to deal with matters which are of unique concern to them.

The organization of the Dutch police is currently being restructured. Over the last 5 years a new plan was devised and partially implemented. The new Police Law outlining the reorganization of the police and its full implementation is anticipated by January 1, 1994. The changes are expected to have the following results: 1) the integration of both municipal and national police into 25 regional police forces with 450 to 4,500 police officers in each region; 2) one of the mayors of the region will be the administrative head of the police force with the remaining mayors of the region comprising a police board which will serve as the final decision maker on financial and organizational matters; 3) the Minister of Internal Affairs will finance the police and determine minimum standards for the professional and qualitative aspects of police and their services; and 4) there will be one national service ("landelijke politiediensten") responsible for traffic control on waterways and highways, protection of the royal family and other VIP's, and protection of national facilities and telecommunications equipment. This branch will fall under the administrative control of the Ministry of Justice.

Individuals have a "guaranteed right to physical integrity" as established by Article 11 of the Constitution. Any infringement of this right is rigidly controlled and must be prescribed by law. Article 33a of the modified Police Code dictates the conditions under which police may employ force against an individual. Self-defense is a further legal authorization for the use of police force, as prescribed by Article 41 of the Criminal Code: "Appropriate force, when possible, preceded by a warning, should be applied only if the objective cannot be achieved by other means". Deadly force may only be used in situations involving a threat to the life or safety of the officer or the public.

Police may stop and question any suspect whom they believe to be involved in a violation of law. Temporary detention is limited to 6 hours before the suspect is either released or arrested. Police may only make an arrest for a crime which they witness in progress. If the police do not witness the crime they make an arrest only if the crime carries a statutory maximum prison sentence of 4 or more years (arrestable offenses). For less serious offenses, the suspect is taken to the station, questioned, and released with a summons to appear in court at a later date.

In theory, a higher ranking police official can order detention for 2 days. The prosecutor has the authority to extend the arrest for another period of 48 hours before the suspect must be presented to an examining judge who will determine whether further detention is warranted. In practice, however, detention at the station can last no longer than 3 days as determined by the European Court of Human Rights in 1988.

The decision to arrest is made by a senior police officer, who is an officer at the management level of Inspecteur. Officers need an arrest warrant only in situations in which the suspect is in his own or another private home and refuses to allow the officers entry onto the premises for the purpose of an arrest or a search of the house.

Information pertaining to the percentage of warrantless arrests is not available. The majority of arrests are made without warrants, including those which occur after an investigation, as opposed to arrests made for crimes witnessed by the arresting officer.

In cases of minor infractions involving first-time offenders, police will release the suspect. This practice is regulated by a formal agreement between the Police and the Public Prosecutor's Office. This agreement, however, is noted in police records to prevent habitual offenders from continuously being released as first-time offenders. Other factors which may influence an officer to deal informally with suspects involved in nonserious violations are the offender's age or the belief that formal processing in the criminal justice system would not benefit the suspect or the system. These are not regulated by departmental rules but are guided by personal beliefs and decided after consulting with a prosecutor (Officer of Justice).

The search and seizure of property is dictated by Articles 94 to 125 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. Under Article 97, the arresting officer can search the apartment or any public places where the offense occurred or where evidence of the offense may exist without a warrant when the suspect was caught in the act or when permission for arrest of a felony offense is outstanding. No search warrant is necessary if the suspect gives permission for the search.

When a search warrant is required, an apartment may be searched only if the police officer is accompanied by any of the following persons: a cantonal court judge, a police commissioner, or the mayor of a municipality. A written search warrant may be issued by the procurer-general of a court, an Officer of Justice (prosecuting attorney), or by special written permission from one of his auxiliary officials (hulpofficier) which also includes a higher-ranking police official at the level of inspecteur. A hulpofficier can only provide a search warrant for another officer, but not for his own investigation. Any articles or objects which aid in establishing the truth or prove unlawfully obtained profit or criminal activity are subject to seizure.

Confessions must be voluntary and may not be obtained through the use of force, threat, or promises; drugs, alcohol, hypnosis or exhaustion. They are to be taken in the accused's own words (Code of Criminal Procedure, Article29). If a confession is involuntarily obtained it will be excluded from the trial. During police interrogation, suspects have the right to remain silent and cannot be forced to answer police questions. During the 6-hour detention period, police are allowed to question suspects and may refuse them access to a lawyer. After the 6-hour detention in cases where police make an arrest for an "arrestable" (felony) offense, a lawyer is automatically provided the accused.

When police are involved in criminal violations of a serious nature, such as corrupt activities, the Federal Criminal Investigation Division (Rijksrecherche) conducts an investigation. They are also responsible for investigating incidents in which the police fire their weapons. The formal decision regarding the outcome of the case will be made by an officer within the Ministry of Justice.

Disciplinary infractions are investigated by the police department in which the alleged offense occurred. The mayor makes a final determination on the outcome of the charges. More serious complaints involving a misuse of police discretion (beleidsklachten) are forwarded to the national police (landelijke or plaatselijke) for further investigation. The Amsterdam police have created a special unit, the Commission for Police Complaints in Amsterdam (Commissie voor Politieklachten Amsterdam) to deal specifically with problems involving the misuse of discretion. Similar offices exist in most large city police departments.

Additionally, a National Ombudsman exists to examine complaints against the police. Complaints can be filed directly in the office of the Ombudsman. While most complaints are handled by the police, the Ombudsman serves as a form of independent external control. The Ombudsman examines the complaints and can make recommendations but has no authority to enforce these recommendations.

As of year 2001, regional police forces were primarily responsible for maintaining internal security. The police, the Royal Constabulary, and investigative organizations concerned with internal and external security generally were under effective civilian authority.


The law prohibits arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile, and the Government generally observes these prohibitions in practice.  

Criminal investigations are conducted by police officers, who act under the authority of the public prosecutor.  Arrests must be ordered by a prosecutor or senior police officer.  Arrests may be made without such authorization upon the discovery of any crime in progress or for crimes that carry a statutory prison sentence of 4 years or more.  Police officers may question suspects for a maximum of 6 hours.  An additional period of 6 hours may be ordered if needed to establish the suspect's identity.  After the initial police questioning, the suspect may be detained up to 6 days upon an order of the public prosecutor.  Thereafter detention must be authorized by the investigative judge.

Police officers must make a written record of their activities, which is forwarded to the prosecutor, who decides what action to take.  If the prosecutor considers that an investigation is necessary, he must request that the investigative judge open a preliminary judicial inquiry.  The investigative judge then assumes responsibility and authority over the investigation.  Defense attorneys have the right to be present during the questioning of the suspect, witnesses, and experts by the investigative judge.

Prior police approval is required for public demonstrations in the Netherlands, and police oversight is routinely provided to ensure adequate security for participants and passers-by. Nonetheless, situations may develop which could pose a threat to public safety. U.S. citizens are advised to avoid areas in which public demonstrations are taking place



During the pretrial process the accused may file an appeal against the writ of summons and may request, if the case has not been brought to trial, that a competent court formally declare that the case has ended. Another pretrial right is the protection against further prosecution if the defendant enters into a transaction with the prosecutor.

Plea bargaining, the entering of a guilty plea in exchange for a lesser charge, while not prohibited, is an uncommon practice in the Netherlands. Entering a guilty plea provides no particular advantages to the accused.

The rights of the accused at trial process begin with the right to counsel. The defendant has the right to choose one or more attorneys to represent him but must, in essence, pay for an attorney of his choice. All cases involving deprivation of liberty guarantee the suspect the right to state appointed legal representation if the suspect is unable to afford counsel.

The defendant has the right to be present at trial, although this is not required. As long as the defendant has been properly presented with a court summons, he or she is not obliged to be present at the trial. The defendant has the right to remain silent and may not be questioned at the trial under oath. The defense attorney may not cross-examine a witness, but may request the judge to ask questions of a witness. There is no right to cross-examination. The defendant may be found guilty or innocent only of the offense charged.

If the accused cannot afford an attorney, a request can be made to the District Legal Assistance Council which will assign counsel to represent the suspect. After the initial 6 hour detention in police custody, the suspect is provided legal assistance by the counsel on duty. This will be reviewed by the president of the district court. The government pays for Legal Assistance Bureaus which provide free advice to any Dutch citizen seeking legal assistance. In cases involving indigent defendants charged with indictable offenses (those prosecuted in the district courts), the District Legal Assistance Council will assign a lawyer to represent the accused. These counselors are paid a fixed rate by the criminal justice authorities. A full bench trial would earn an assigned lawyer a meager fee of about 1,600 Dutch guilders.

The police or prosecutor's office may conduct a preliminary investigation of a crime or suspect. In certain instances, such as in customs or tax violations, other authorities may conduct the investigation. Under oath, the police prepare a report which includes all information and evidence and turn the report over to the prosecutor's office. In limited cases, those in which "police investigations cannot be finalized because specific further measures need to be taken," the prosecutor will request a judicial preliminary investigation by an "Examining Judge" at the District Court level. Other situations are dictated by the Code of Criminal Procedure to act as a check on senior police officers or prosecutors, such as circumstances involving the search of premises. Judicial examinations occur in about 6% of all investigations.

The Public Prosecutor has sole responsibility for prosecution. He or she may decide the nature of the charge and has the power to reduce the charge, even if sufficient evidence exists to warrant a higher charge. The judge has no authority over this decision.

The criminal justice system in the Netherlands operates under the principle of opportunity or expediency (opportuniteits-beginsel). This allows the prosecutor to dismiss cases in the interest of expediency or public interest The principle of opportunity is operative when other penal sanctions or measures are more preferable, when the prosecution would be "disproportionate, unjust or ineffective" with regard to the nature of the offense or the offender, or if the prosecution is contrary to the state or the victim.

The Public Prosecutor can also exercise numerous options to dismiss charges. For instance, a technical dismissal, sometimes referred to as procedural waiver, will occur if insufficient evidence exists to prosecute the case in court. The procedural waiver is unconditional.

Policy dismissals or waivers occur when the prosecutor feels that a criminal trial is unwarranted and that other alternatives are better suited to the defendant and the individual situation. These policy waivers are often conditional and can be combined with any number of dispositions (e.g., alcohol or drug treatment, community service, restitution to the victim, requirements to contact social work department, prohibition against visiting certain places).

The police or prosecutor's office may conduct a preliminary investigation of a crime or suspect. In certain instances, such as in customs or tax violations, other authorities may conduct the investigation. Under oath, the police prepare a report which includes all information and evidence and turn the report over to the prosecutor's office. In limited cases, those in which "police investigations cannot be finalized because specific further measures need to be taken," the prosecutor will request a judicial preliminary investigation by an "Examining Judge" at the District Court level. Other situations are dictated by the Code of Criminal Procedure to act as a check on senior police officers or prosecutors, such as circumstances involving the search of premises. Judicial examinations occur in about 6% of all investigations.

The Public Prosecutor has sole responsibility for prosecution. He or she may decide the nature of the charge and has the power to reduce the charge, even if sufficient evidence exists to warrant a higher charge. The judge has no authority over this decision. The criminal justice system in the Netherlands operates under the principle of opportunity or expediency (opportuniteits-beginsel). This allows the prosecutor to dismiss cases in the interest of expediency or public interest. The principle of opportunity is operative when other penal sanctions or measures are more preferable, when the prosecution would be "disproportionate, unjust or ineffective" with regard to the nature of the offense or the offender, or if the prosecution is contrary to the state or the victim.

The Public Prosecutor can also exercise numerous options to dismiss charges. For instance, a technical dismissal, sometimes referred to as procedural waiver, will occur if insufficient evidence exists to prosecute the case in court. The procedural waiver is unconditional. Policy dismissals or waivers occur when the prosecutor feels that a criminal trial is unwarranted and that other alternatives are better suited to the defendant and the individual situation. These policy waivers are often conditional and can be combined with any number of dispositions (e.g., alcohol or drug treatment, community service, restitution to the victim, requirements to contact social work department, prohibition against visiting certain places).

Another alternative to formal processing is the use of transaction, which involves payment by the defendant. This alternative terminates the case. The introduction of the Financial Penalties Act in 1983 allowed prosecutors to employ transaction with a wider range of offenses, excluding crimes which carried a prison sentence of more than 6 years. Conditions are specifically spelled out in the Criminal Code (Sections 74: subsection 2). Detailed regulations governing transaction procedure are outlined in section 74-74c of the Penal Code and section 578 of the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The proportion of cases which go to trial does not vary greatly with the seriousness of the offense. What does vary is the method used by the prosecutor to dispose of the cases. The majority of criminal cases (over 64% in 1990) are resolved by the prosecutor through transaction or dismissal. Of the remaining cases which actually reach the court, the majority (almost 83% in Cantonal and 91% in District Courts in 1990) result in guilty verdicts. (Statistics are available for the years 1980, 1985, 1988, 1989, and 1990. The fewest number of guilty verdicts in Cantonal Courts was 71.7% in 1985. In 1980, 96% of the cases appearing before these courts resulted in guilty verdicts. In the District Courts, 1988 held the record low with 89% guilty verdicts compared to a high of 92.5% in 1980.

Information is not available on what percentage of these were a result of guilty pleas. Since plea bargaining is an uncommon practice, it can be safely assumed that the percentage of guilty pleas is relatively low.

In 1990, of the 1,182,991 cases which were slated for Cantonal Courts, 815,912 (69%) were handled by the prosecutor, 537,059 (65.8%) of these through transactions, and the remaining 278,853 (34.2%) cases were disposed by other means. Also in 1990, 251,454 cases were slated for the District Court. Of these, 162,015 (64.4%) were handled by the prosecutor, of which 49,757 (30.7%) were disposed through transaction, 75,484 (46.6%) through dismissals, and 28,538 (17.6%) through "joinders"--known as "voegingen" in Dutch, "joinders" is a measure which regulates payment by the offender to the victim.

While the prosecutor disposes of approximately two-thirds of the cases in both minor and serious offenses, transaction is clearly the more preferable disposition with less serious offenses in the Cantonal Courts. The high number of dismissals with more serious offenses in District Courts is probably due to the use of the conditional dismissal which is more restrictive than transaction. The legislature has upheld harsher penalties for suspects who refuse transactions and go to trial. According to 1990 statistics, of those defendants who went to trial, guilty verdicts were returned in 82.9% of the cases in Cantonal Courts and 91.1% of the cases in District Courts.

There are several pretrial incarceration conditions. A person may only be detained for 6 hours before being charged with an offense, that charge being an informal charge, stating the violations of the criminal code. Within 3 days, the accused must be brought before a magistrate or the "Examining Judge" of the District Court. Trial must follow within 100 days after the initial police custody if detention is ordered. An automatic review of the detention occurs every month.

Detention may be ordered only for arrestable offenses, which are those carrying a sentence of imprisonment for 4 years or more. Detention can be ordered on the grounds that the suspect is a flight risk, or endangers public order or safety, particularly if the individual has committed a crime which is punishable with a sentence of incarceration over 12 years, or the danger exists that the individual will commit another serious offense which carries a possible penalty of 6 years incarceration. Another ground for detention is the possibility that the suspect may endanger the investigation by destroying evidence or tampering with witnesses.

Pretrial detention may not be ordered if it is likely that the accused will not be sentenced to incarceration. It must be terminated if the time of detention has exceeded the probable sentence of incarceration.

While detainees are not legally entitled to bail, provisional release may be granted by the District Court under certain conditions.

In 1990, 14,811 (6.5%) of pretrial offenders (total: 227,494) were incarcerated. As of December 31, 1990, 3,143 (48.2%) of the 6,526 incarcerated inmates were awaiting trial

Criminal matters are dealt with in courts at four levels. There is one Supreme Court of the Netherlands. The Supreme Court hears appellate court cases, cases in which the law has been inappropriately applied, or cases in which there has been a violation of due process or procedural fairness. In addition, the Supreme Court may hear cases at first instance concerning crimes committed by senior government officials (such as the heads of Ministries) when the offenses were committed during the performance of their official duties. There are five Courts of Appeal which hear appeals rendered against District Court decisions. These courts may have additional chambers that hear appeals or sometimes cases at first instance in specific civil or tax matters. There are 19 District Courts. Each district covers three or four cantons in the Netherlands and handles both civil and criminal matters. The District Court hears criminal cases (misdrijven) at first instance. In complex cases, or those in which the penalty may exceed 6 months incarceration, a panel of three judges will sit. In less serious matters, or those with a penalty of less than 6 months incarceration, a single judge, the "police magistrate" will pass judgement. The police magistrate may waive the case to a judicial panel if he or she deems it appropriate. Nearly all economic and environmental crimes are tried by a single judge. The District Courts also serve as courts of appeal for matters from the Cantonal Courts.

The 62 Cantonal Courts, handle both civil and criminal matters of a nonserious nature (overtredingen). A single judge passes judgment in this court.

At the District Court level there are special judges to try two special types of offenses. A Juvenile Court Magistrate tries all cases concerning juveniles which come before the court. Minor economic offenses are tried by the Economic Police Magistrate, whereas more serious economic offenses are tried by a judicial panel in the District Courts. Additionally, the Military Courts hear cases involving criminal offenses committed by personnel in the military.

One can become a judge through an "inside" or an "outside" position. Immediately after completing a university law degree, the applicant trains "inside" the judiciary at a court or at the office of the public prosecutor. The training takes 6 years, during which time the trainee gains experience in the court, at a Public Prosecutor's Office, and outside of the court system at the Bar. This apprenticeship period is followed by 2 years' practical experience before the individual can apply for a vacant post.

An "outsider" enters the profession after having worked for at least 6 years in the law field (private law firm, a university, or in the Ministry of Justice.) Applicants seeking judgeship appointments must appear before the Committee for Recruitment of Members of the Judiciary. The Committee consists of judges and members of the community representing various interests. Judges may remain in their position until they reach the retirement age of 70 years.

Criminal justice in the Netherlands is administered only by the public prosecutors and professional career judges. There are with very limited exceptions no lay judges in the Netherlands. One exceptions is in the military division of the District Court and Court of Appeal, where the defendant faces two professional judges and one military lay judge. Another exception is in the Court of Appeal at Arnhem, penitentiary division, where the defendant facing such penitentiary possibilities as the refusal of early release faces a panel of three professional judges and two experts in the behavioral sciences.

The sentence is determined by the judge who delivers the verdict. There is no special sentencing hearing. There is no distinction between the trial and sentencing stages. The judge bases his or her decision upon the seriousness of the offense and the specific facts in the case as well as mitigating or aggravating factors, such as the character and personality of the offender, his or her employment record, prior criminal record and social background.

In order to aid the judge in the sentencing decision, the probation service, the defendant, or the defendant's attorney may prepare a "social enquiry report" containing this information. If necessary, social workers, medical experts, medical records, or psychiatric evaluations may be used.

The Dutch system of sanctions is characterized by its wide range of options given to judges. Although the judge hands down the sentence, it is the prosecutor who is responsible for its enforcement. The penalty system differentiates between principal and accessory penalties, and between penalties and measures.

Principal penalties include imprisonment, detention, community service, and fines. Imprisonment is only imposed for serious crimes. The minimum sentence is 1 day, the maximum is 15 years. Murder sentences can be extended to 20 years. A life sentence may be imposed for murder or manslaughter with aggravating circumstances, although this is rare. Life sentences are always converted to a specified period of time by way of pardon which allows the offender to be considered for early release. Detention is handed down for infractions of the law. The minimum sentence of detention is 1 day and the maximum is 1 year.

Community service, officially called "the performance of unpaid work for the general good," was introduced into the sanctions system in 1989 after an 8-year experiment. An order of community service is given in lieu of an unconditional prison sentence of 6 months or less, and only with the consent of the offender. There is no statutory minimum and the maximum sentence is 240 hours to be served within a 12 month time frame.

Sentences of less than 120 hours must be carried out within 6 months. Noncompliance may result in the judicial revocation of the sentence and the offender being sent to prison.

The fine, originally intended only for infractions, was introduced into the sanctions system for crimes in the 1983 Financial Penalties Act. Fines are broken down into six categories ranging from a maximum 500 guilders for category I to 1,000,000 guilders for category VI. Category VI fines can only be imposed upon corporations, except in the specialized cases of individuals committing offenses under the Economic Offenses Act or the Narcotic Drug Offenses Act. If the offender fails to pay a fine, he or she may be sentenced to "fine default detention". The judge sets the term of the fine default detention at the time the offender is sentenced to the original fine. The state generally converts one day of detention into 50 to 100 guilders.

Accessory penalties were originally intended to accompany principal penalties, although they may be applied on their own. Accessory penalties include confiscation or the seizure of possessions or property of the defendant; dispossession of certain rights, such as the right to hold office, serve in the armed forces, or practice certain professions; complete or partial closure of a business when a criminal offense has been committed and where the defendant has been convicted of an economic crime; and the forfeiture of a driver's license. Another less frequently used accessory penalty involves making the defendant pay for the cost of the trial.

Measures can be imposed upon individuals where the question of culpability arises. Even in cases where a defendant is acquitted or released, the judge can impose measures. These are enumerated in title IIa of the 1983 Penal Code. Measures include: a) the seizure of objects from the possession of an individual if they pose a threat to public interest or are in conflict with the law (Penal Code, Section 36a-36d), b) confiscation of the profits of a crime (Penal Code Section 36e), c) an order for detention in a psychiatric hospital for a period of up to 1 year if the individual presents a danger to him or herself, to others, or to property (Penal Code Section 37). Also, an in-patient hospital order can be imposed for crimes carrying at least a 4-year penalty of imprisonment for the protection of the individual, others, or property. (Penal Code Sections 37a-38i). The order may be imposed for 2 years and then be extended for another year or two. The final measure, d), is the out-patient hospital order, which may be combined with probation services. (Penal Code Section 38-38b). The judge may determine the conditions.

A suspended sentence can also be imposed. Suspension may involve all or part of any sentence (except community service), including a maximum sentence of 3 years incarceration. Prison sentences extending beyond 3 years may not be suspended. A suspended sentence may be accompanied by any number of conditions, including placement in a medical facility for the duration of the suspension, compensation to the victim, a deposit of bail equal to the amount of a fine, or the imposition of special conditions.

The Code of Criminal Procedure expresses preference for fines over other forms of custodial sanctions and requires an explanation be given by the judge when a custodial sentence is imposed. Fines, theoretically, can be handed down for any offense, including murder. They are, however, generally handed down for infractions, and many crimes of a nonviolent, nonserious nature. Incarceration is reserved for more serious offenses such as murder and manslaughter, rape, serious property and drug offenses.

The death penalty for ordinary crimes was abolished in the Netherlands in 1870. Capital punishment for military and war crimes was abolished in 1983.

As of year 2001, the Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government generally respected this provision in practice. The judicial system is based on the Napoleonic Code. A pyramidal system of cantonal, district, and appellate courts handled both criminal and civil cases. The Supreme Court acted as the highest appellate court and ensured the uniform interpretation of the law. The law provides for the right to a fair trial, and an independent judiciary generally enforced this right. In 2001 both the judiciary and the public prosecutor introduced procedures whereby complaints could be filed for perceived impolite or rude treatment by either a judge or prosecutor. The law instructs that defendants be fully informed at every stage of criminal proceedings. In criminal trials, the law provides for a presumption of innocence and the right to public trial, to counsel (virtually free for low-income persons), and to appeal.



Dutch prisons are characterized as closed (high security), semi-open (normal security) and open institutions (minimal security). Extra-high-risk security units within prisons exist to house inmates who are high escape risks or exhibit violent behavior toward other inmates or prison officers. Detention in these extra-high-risk units is for a period of 6 months, with a review and possible 6-month extension.

In all, there are separate institutions for men, women, and juveniles; open, half-open and closed institutions; long-term and short-term institutions; institutions for so-called "self-reporters," maximum security prisons for long-term prisoners; special establishments for traffic offenders, mentally disturbed offenders and dangerous criminals, and remand centers. Some institutions, however, may house two or three different classifications.

The Prison Department, under the direction of the Ministry of Justice, is responsible for the administration of prisons. All prisons in the Netherlands are administered by the federal government. The top administrative official in the prison is the prison governor; subordinate to him are the assistants. The administration is further assisted by mental health and social workers, group-leaders, and warders. Some institutions employ guards who enforce the external security.

The organization and administration of prisons is governed by the Prison Administration Act of 1953, which recognizes the following categorizations of prisons for males in the Netherlands: institutions for young offenders up to the age of 23; short-term adult institutions for sentences of up to 6 months; and long-term adult institutions for sentences over 6 months.

The only categorization for females is that they be housed in separate institutions than males.

Another category of offenders are low-risk offenders who have been sentenced and are later summoned to report to a particular prison to begin serving their sentence. These "self-reporters" are housed in low-security penal institutions.

The National Prison Selection Center in the Hague classifies prisoners and determines the institution to which they will be sent. If disciplinary or safety problems arise, a prisoner may be transferred to another prison.

Since 1987 and the introduction of a major reform of the conditional release practice, prisoners serving a maximum 1 year prison sentence must be released after having served 6 months. For those serving sentences longer than 1 year, release occurs after two-thirds of the sentence is served, with no conditions attached. The right of a prisoner to be released early is expressed in the Criminal Code. While early release cannot be revoked, it can be delayed under the following circumstances: if continued treatment is deemed necessary for a prisoner serving his sentence in a mental hospital; if the prisoner commits a serious offense after his sentence begins; or if the prisoner is sentenced for a serious offense with a penalty of 4 years or more and the offense is committed while serving time for an offense for which the prisoner would normally be eligible for release.

The 1988 Pardon Act grants the Queen power to pardon prisoners when direct application is made to her by the prisoner or the prosecution service. The sentencing judge and the prosecution service are to be notified. The pardon may be conditional.

The degree of conditional release depends entirely upon the classification of the prisoner. Work and educational release are granted as a rule to inmates in open institutions. Educational release may be granted to inmates from other types of institutions on an individual basis.

Prisoners in open institutions are generally granted weekly weekend furloughs. "Self-report" prisoners and those serving sentences longer than 5 weeks are entitled to a weekend furlough every 4 weeks. The 1982 General Leave Rule established guidelines for the temporary release of other inmates.

The Principles of Prison Administration Act establishes the rights and duties of the prisoner in the areas of spiritual and social care, discipline, recreation, and work. Detainees awaiting trial are not required to work, but they may do so to obtain extra money. Convicted prisoners must work and refusal to do so is punishable by 5 days of solitary confinement. Prisoners in open institutions usually work outside of the prison.

Limited educational opportunities are provided to inmates. Inmates in open institutions may be allowed to pursue an education outside of the prison. Limited vocational training is available in the juvenile system. Because prison sentences are usually relatively short, intensive vocational training is limited.

The prison is obligated to provide for the prisoner's improvement and rehabilitation. The Prison Rules have further developed the principles laid out in the Prison Administration Act by detailing educational and recreational provisions (television, films, lectures, and participating in performances). The prison system also provides medical care, psychological and psychiatric care, and chaplains to aid prisoners in their rehabilitation.

Prisoners have the right to send and receive mail and to receive visitors. They also have the right to appeal decisions made by the prison governors to the Complaints Committee of the Prison Supervisory Board.

As of year 2001, prison conditions in the Netherlands generally met international standards.  Male and female prisoners were held separately.  In addition juvenile prisoners were held separately from adults and pretrial detainees are held separately from convicted criminals.  The Government permitted visits by independent human rights monitors, but no such visits occurred during the year.

The Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) has urged the Governments of the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles, and Aruba to improve the "inhuman" conditions in Curacao's Koraal Specht prison and in cell blocks at the police stations on the islands of St. Maarten, Bonaire, and Aruba.  The CPT's criticism focused on overcrowding, extremely poor sanitary conditions, poor food, and insufficient ventilation.  The Committee also criticized widespread corruption and the mistreatment of prisoners by guards at Koraal Specht.  In 2000 the CPT specifically criticized the Government for not doing enough to prevent outbursts of violence among prisoners, including sexual assaults, and the use of riot police to guard prisoners at the Koraal Specht prison.  The Justice Minister set up the Kibbelaar committee early in the year.  In September it found that prison guards on Curacao and St. Maarten routinely smuggled drugs and firearms into the prison and allowed breakouts and sexual assaults to occur.  The Justice Minister suspended 175 of the 202 guards, and put the regular police in charge of guarding the prisons.

The Dutch Government repeatedly has provided financial assistance to the Government of the Netherlands Antilles for the construction of a new juvenile wing, a maximum-security facility, and other improvements at Koraal Specht.  The Government also sent experts on prison organization and the training of guards.  Steady progress has been made in improving conditions (prisoners have mattresses, hygiene and food have improved, and construction began on a new wing to relieve overcrowding).  The Government of the Netherlands Antilles was renovating the entire prison complex, and in April a new cellblock was renovated; the prison's name was changed from Koraal Specht to Bon Futuro.  When the entire complex is renovated, it is expected to hold 700 prisoners.  At the request of the Antillean Government and with funds from the Dutch Government, a private foreign company supplied expert personnel who reorganized prison management and trained mid-level staff for a period of a year beginning on September 1, 2000.

The Governments of the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba allow access by independent human rights monitors to prisons; however, no such visits occurred during the year.



As of year 2001, violence against women was a problem.  A report released during the year by the Social Affairs Ministry showed that each year approximately 200,000 women, particularly ethnic minorities, are victims of violence by their former or present spouses or partners.  Each year approximately 50,000 women suffer from serious violence, (defined as battering, physical and mental abuse, manslaughter, and sexual violence), and 60 to 80 die of domestic violence.  Marital rape is a crime and carries the same penalty as nonmarital rape, a maximum of 8 years' imprisonment.  Spousal abuse carries a one-third higher penalty than ordinary battery.  Fewer than 10 percent of victims of domestic violence report to the police; most cases are not reported out of fear, shame, or guilt.  Per year approximately 800 men are prosecuted for battering their partners.

The Government supports programs to reduce and prevent violence against women.  There is a network of 48 government-subsidized shelters offering the services of social workers and psychologists to battered women.  In addition battered women who leave their domestic partners become eligible for social benefits, which include an adequate basic living subsidy as well as an allowance for dependent children.  In addition to helping victims of sexual abuse, the Government has pursued an active prevention campaign through commercials and awareness training of educators.  Nongovernmental organizations also advise and assist women who are victims of sexual assault.

Prostitution is legal, and since 2000 the law no longer treats "organizing the prostitution of somebody else" as a crime when done with the consent of the prostitute.  However, it is illegal to force a person into prostitution.  All brothels require licenses issued by local governments with strict conditions to be observed by brothel owners.  The Government believes that by decriminalizing prostitution, licensing brothel operators, and improving working conditions and health care for prostitutes, while at the same time prohibiting the employment of minors and illegal immigrants, prostitution will be less susceptible to criminal organizations trafficking in women and children.  In addition the licensing system in theory makes prostitution more transparent and easier for the police to monitor.  However, between 20,000 and 30,000 individuals are employed in prostitution, and it is estimated that half of all prostitutes originate in non-European Union countries and are residing in the country illegally.  In addition trafficking in women for the purpose of prostitution remained a problem, despite Government efforts to combat it.

The law requires employers to take measures to protect workers from sexual harassment; however, research shows that approximately 245,000 women, or 6.6 percent of the female working population, are intimidated sexually in the work place each year.  The Government funds an ongoing publicity campaign to increase awareness of the problem.  As the largest employer, the Government has taken measures to counter harassment among civil servants, including in the police force.

Women increasingly are entering the job market, but traditional cultural factors and an inadequate number of day care facilities tend to discourage women--especially women with young children--from working; one-third of women stop working after the birth of their first child.  During the year, 52 percent of women participated in the labor market.  The Government has taken steps to raise this figure to at least 65 percent by 2010 through various measures, including an expansion of child care facilities and special leave programs.  The social welfare and national health systems provide considerable assistance to working women with families.  Women are eligible for 16 weeks of maternity leave with full pay.  The Parental Leave Law allows parents to take unpaid full-time leave for 3 months and to extend that leave for more than 6 months to care for children up to 8-years old.  Persons working fewer than 20 hours per week also are entitled to parental leave.

Nevertheless women often are underemployed and have less chance of promotion than their male colleagues.  Approximately 42 percent of women hold part-time jobs.  They often hold lower level positions than men, mostly because of their part-time status.  According to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, in 2000 the average hourly earnings of men exceeded those of women by 23 percent; however, some women continued to make steady progress by moving into professional and high-visibility jobs.  According to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, women working in the private sector on average earn 23 percent less than men, although when 'corrected' to take into account the level of experience and expertise required for the jobs, this differential is reduced to 7 percent.

In 1988 the Government started affirmative action programs for women.  Collective labor agreements usually include one or more provisions to strengthen the position of women.  Legislation mandates equal pay for equal work, prohibits dismissal because of marriage, pregnancy, or motherhood, and provides the basis for equality in other employment-related areas.  A legislatively mandated Equal Treatment Commission actively pursues complaints of discrimination in these areas as well as allegations of pay discrimination.


The Government works to ensure the well being of children through numerous well-funded health, education, and public information programs.  Mandatory attendance at school ends at age 16, or after at least 12 years of education.  Education is free for children between 4 and 16, although schools may ask for a voluntary contribution from parents.  Vocational education is also free, except for the cost of books and materials.  Approximately 10 percent of students leave secondary school before attaining a certificate.

According to the Child Abuse Reporting and Advisory Center, an estimated 40,000 to 80,000 children are victims of child abuse each year, although only approximately 20,000 formal reports of child abuse are registered.  As a result of abuse, 40 to 50 children die each year.  The U.N. Commission on Childrens' Rights in 1999 expressed concern about the Government's  performance in this area, in particular, the long waiting list for assistance to abused children.  Approximately 7,000 abused children were on the waiting list at year's end.  The Council for the Protection of Children, operated through the Ministry of Justice, enforces child support orders, investigates cases of child abuse, and recommends remedies ranging from counseling to withdrawal of parental rights.  The Government also maintains a popular hot line for children and a network of pediatricians who track suspected cases of child abuse on a confidential basis.

The age of consent is 16.  Sexual intercourse with minors under age 12 always constitutes a criminal offense; in cases involving minors between the ages of 12 and 16, an interested party must file a complaint.  The law imposes penalties on prostitution activities involving minors; maximum penalties vary between 6 years' imprisonment for sex (in the context of prostitution) with minors under age 18, 8 years for sex with minors under 16 years of age, and 10 for sex with minors under 12 years.  International sex tourism involving the abuse of minor children is prosecutable.  In past years, several Dutch citizens have been tried and convicted for the abuse of minors in other countries; however, there were no such convictions reported during the year.  Trafficking in girls for the purpose of prostitution was a problem.

The maximum penalty for child pornography is 4 years' imprisonment and 6 years' in the event of financial gain.  The law allows for provisional arrest, house searches, and criminal financial investigations.  The possession of child pornography is punishable, but exemptions are made for scientific or educational use.  However, these exemptions have caused some problems; for example, in the past owners claimed that child pornographic collections were of historic value.  In May a bill submitted by the Justice Minister raised the age at which minors are allowed to act in pornographic movies from 16 to 18, which corresponds to the age requirement in the ILO Convention against the (sexual) exploitation of children, as well as corresponding to the national minimum age for working in the prostitution sector. 

The Government has begun a national offensive against child pornography on the Internet.


The law specifically criminalizes alien smuggling and trafficking in persons; however, women and girls were  trafficked into the country for prostitution.  The country is a major destination for trafficked women from countries around the world, including Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, Albania, Romania, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, China, the Philippines, Thailand, and Africa (Nigeria.)  There are no reliable figures available; however, the Foundation Against Trafficking in Women estimates that each year approximately 3,000 women and girls are trafficked into the country for the purpose of prostitution. 

African women, in particular those from Nigeria, make up a sizeable portion of foreign women working illegally as prostitutes.  According to the authorities, the most widely used method for trafficking African women is the fraudulent use of special asylum procedures for minors, who are virtually ensured entry.  Although most women trafficked from Africa are not actually under the age of 18, all claim to be.  Once at the asylum center, they remain for a few days and then disappear, only to turn up later as prostitutes in the country or elsewhere in Europe.  Most of these women are under extreme pressure to work as prostitutes.  According to the Terre des Hommes organization, their families have signed contracts with trafficking organizations, often sanctioned by "voodoo" priests; the girls strongly believe in the magical power of voodoo.

A Dutch study of prostitutes from central and eastern Europe shows that five out of six, "liberated" from trafficking organizations in the Netherlands, knew that they were to be employed in the sex industry when they accepted the offer of their recruiters; however, upon their arrival, they often were treated as slaves, physically abused, intimidated, threatened, and locked up.  In addition, traffickers withhold money and documentation, and they threatened to have the women deported.

There is also a problem with so-called "loverboys," primarily young Moroccans or Turks living in the country who seduce young, second-generation immigrant girls into prostitution.  Local governments have initiated in-school campaigns to warn girls of the danger of loverboys.

The maximum sentence for trafficking in persons is 6 years.  In cases involving minors, severe physical violence, or organized trafficking, the maximum sentence is 10 years.  The maximum sentence for alien smuggling is 8 years.  With the introduction of the new prostitution law, which prohibits the employment of prostitutes in the country illegally, the Government seeks to intensify the fight against criminal organizations trafficking in women and children . The Government actively investigates and prosecutes traffickers.  In 2000 authorities prosecuted 68 trafficking cases of which 34 resulted in convictions. 

The Government has an active policy to combat trafficking in persons.  The Ministries of Justice, Internal Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Welfare and Health, and Social Affairs are involved in antitrafficking efforts.  A number of police forces have established special units to deal with trafficking.  In April 2000, the Government created the Bureau of the National Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, which is to report annually to the Government on the nature, extent, and mechanisms of trafficking, as well as on the effects of national policies.  It is an independent government agency, led by a public prosecutor.  The Bureau receives about $600,000 (1.5 million guilders) per year from five different ministries (Justice, Internal Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Social Affairs, and Health.)  Its first report will be submitted in the spring of 2002.  The Government cooperates closely with other government on trafficking, and EUROPOL, established in the Hague, provides analytical support and administrative expertise to European Union member-state law enforcement agencies on trafficking matters.  The Justice Ministry also cofinances the La Strada program, aimed at preventing trafficking in women in central and eastern European countries.

Under the law, illegal residents, who may have been victims of trafficking, may not be deported before investigations are completed.  Victims are allowed 3 months to consider pressing charges, and victims who do so are allowed to stay in the country until the judicial process is completed.  During this period, victims receive legal, financial, and psychological assistance.  In special circumstances, residence permits are granted on humanitarian grounds.  After completion of the judicial process, illegal prostitutes returning to their native countries are eligible for temporary financial assistance.


The Netherlands is a key transit point for drugs entering Europe and a major producer and exporter of amphetamines and synthetic drugs. The Dutch government continues to give high priority to fighting narcotics trafficking, including the production of and trade in "ecstasy" and other designer drugs. A special synthetic drug unit, set up in 1997 to coordinate the fight against designer drugs, appears to be having success. The Netherlands works closely with the U.S. in fighting international crime, including drug trafficking and related money laundering. We disagree with aspects of Dutch domestic drug policy, particularly the toleration of "soft" drugs, and view with critical interest its extensive "harm reduction" programs. The Netherlands is active in many aspects of international law enforcement, including joint drug operations in the Caribbean. The Netherlands is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention and the 1990 Strasbourg Convention on Money Laundering and Confiscation. The Dutch are major donors to the UNDCP, members of the Dublin Group, and chair its Central European Regional Group. The Dutch are active in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and play a key role in the Caribbean Action Task Force (CFATF).

The Netherlands is located at a geographical crossroads, and has a long history as a trading and transit center. With an excellent transportation and communications infrastructure and the world's busiest seaport at the Port of Rotterdam, the Netherlands is a key site for drugs entering and transiting Europe. Production of amphetamines, ecstasy and other synthetic drugs is significant. The Netherlands' highly developed financial sector provides opportunities for money laundering. As a center for the international chemical industry, the Netherlands also attracts individuals trying to obtain or produce precursors used to manufacture illicit drugs. All illicit drugs are illegal in the Netherlands. The Dutch Opium Act, however, distinguishes between "hard" drugs, deemed to have "unacceptable" risks (heroin, cocaine, ecstasy, etc.) and "soft" drugs (cannabis and cannabis products). One of the main aims of this policy is to separate the markets for drugs so users of "soft" drugs are less likely to come into contact with "hard" drugs. "Coffee shops" are permitted to sell very small amounts of cannabis, under very strict conditions, without facing prosecution. The criteria are: no sales higher than five grams per customer, no hard drug sales, no sales to people under 18, no advertising, and no nuisance. The number of "coffee shops" has dropped due to tighter restrictions recently imposed. The Director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Barry McCaffrey visited the Netherlands in July 1998 and voiced disagreement with the policy of allowing the sale of "soft" drugs.

The new Dutch coalition government, formed in August 1998, will continue a policy focus on intensified control of "coffee shops" which has led to a significant fall in their number. In Rotterdam, the number of "coffee shops" has dropped from about 200 to 62. In Amsterdam, the number has been halved in the past four years. New legislation before parliament will close loopholes and complete the ban on all indoor cultivation of Dutch-grown marijuana ("Nederwiet").The Dutch government continues to place strong emphasis on the fight against the production of and trade in synthetic drugs. The government's ecstasy action plan is having some success. Although the Netherlands still is Europe's largest ecstasy producer, some production is shifting to other countries. The Minister of Health expressed deep concern about the results of research by the Leiden University Center for Human Drug Research (CHDR) demonstrating the damaging effects of ecstasy use. The research showed that ecstasy use affected memory and concentration, and can cause depression. The Minister has pledged additional funds for ecstasy research and announced a public information campaign aimed at young people. The Dutch government plans to study possible medical uses of marijuana. In November 1998, it proposed a change in the law which, if adopted, would lead to the creation of a federal bureau to oversee the legal cultivation of marijuana. This legislative process may take from 1-2 years. In the meantime, government researchers will consider importing marijuana under license from the UK or the U.S. (NIDA). In July 1998, the Ministry of Health announced a pilot program to investigate whether the distribution of heroin, under strict medical controls, to a limited group of chronically addicted users would improve their medical and social conditions, and reduce related public and social nuisance. Pilot programs were launched in Amsterdam and Rotterdam with a total of 50 hard-core heroin addicts, for whom all other treatment regimens had proven ineffective. Based upon a favorable initial evaluation of the pilot programs, the government has recommended an experiment to cover 750 persons. This expansion will require parliamentary approval. The International Narcotics Control Bureau (INCB) has approved the use of heroin for this experiment. The Dutch parliament is expected to approve a bill requiring special measures to ensure that addicts who are repeat criminal offenders remain drug-free during incarceration.

The Dutch offensive against production of and trade in ecstasy and other synthetic drugs appears to be having some success. The Special Synthetic Drug Unit (USD), set up to coordinate the fight against synthetic drugs, became operational in September 1997. The USD consists of police, customs, the Fiscal Information and Investigation Service (FIOD), the Economic Control Service (ECD), and the Criminal Investigation and Information Service (CRI). The USD's core activities include the coordination of information flows, improvement of international legal assistance, expansion of international networks, and assistance in criminal investigations. Working relations between the DEA and the USD are excellent. During the first six months of 1998, 36 investigations took place relating to production and wholesaling of synthetic drugs, or illegal dealings with precursors, according to a USD report. The USD rapid intervention team conducted five additional investigations. Almost 36,000 liters of toxic substances were found during the same six-month period, a significant increase from previous years.

About 50 percent of the domestic cannabis market is Dutch-grown marijuana ("Nederwiet"). (All hemp cultivation is illegal except for agricultural purposes, such as wind barriers.) The Dutch government has given top priority to the investigation and prosecution of large-scale commercial cultivation of Nederwiet. It has doubled the criminal penalty to four years imprisonment and/or a fine of approximately $50,000. The government also introduced a bill to close loopholes and thus complete the ban on all indoor cultivation of hemp. Almost 1.5 million Nederwiet plants were confiscated in 1997, according to the Justice Ministry.

The Dutch government has stepped up border controls to combat the flow of drugs. This action has resulted in a significant drop in drug trafficking through the Port of Rotterdam, where a container scanner recently became operational, according to Rotterdam Customs. After a thorough analysis of the flows of goods into and through west European ports, Customs authorities believe that the European drug market is increasingly served through east European ports. This means that more use is made of road and rail transport to smuggle drugs in and through the Netherlands. Approximately 50 percent of hashish seized in the Netherlands entered the country from Morocco through France and Belgium. About 80 percent of the heroin seized entered the country from Germany through the "Balkan Route." The Netherlands participates in the Pompidou Group and in the Narcotics Working Group set up in the context of the Schengen Treaty. Dutch police, justice and customs officials have close contacts with their colleagues in Belgium, France, Germany, and the UK. The Dutch Criminal Investigation and Information Service (CRI) has posted liaison officers in Thailand, Pakistan, Venezuela, Colombia, Interpol in Lyon, the Netherlands Antilles, Turkey, Poland and Spain. The Dutch also cooperate closely with DEA. EUROPOL is based in The Hague.

The Netherlands has extensive demand reduction and harm-reduction programs, reaching about 75 percent of the country's 25,000 heroin users. Since the protection of the health of drug users is a major government priority, domestic programs are designed with this priority in mind. The number of heroin addicts has stabilized in the past few years, their average age has risen to 36, and Dutch authorities assert that the number of local drug-related deaths remains the lowest in the EU. HIV infection among addicts is relatively low, according to the Dutch, who credit extensive needle exchange programs, low-threshold care facilities, personal counseling, and information campaigns. The Dutch government will create a national drug monitoring office to coordinate the large number of monitoring activities related to drugs. The office is expected to become operational in 1999.

Dutch police and prosecutors give high priority to fighting international crime, including drug trafficking and related money laundering. Dutch laws and police methods have at times impeded law enforcement efforts. In 1998, in response to controversy arising from controlled drug deliveries, the government tightened rules governing investigation methods used by police and justice, particularly in undercover operations. The use of criminals to infiltrate criminal organizations is now allowed only in very exceptional cases, after personal approval by the Justice Minister. The same applies to the use of controlled drug deliveries. Dutch police investigative methods tend to be extremely compartmentalized and do not allow much leeway in taking on additional requests from the international law enforcement community. Police teams are forced to identify a task or organization to be investigated, commit personnel, and define a timeline for the investigation. This inflexible policy often means that new areas of inquiry must be forced artificially into the confines of existing investigations. There is no Dutch police entity dedicated to responding to international requests, which at times means that international law enforcement agencies "shop" for an investigative team to assist in a case. It is not uncommon for such demandeurs to be told that Dutch police teams have no capacity to assist. Dutch law also does not provide for plea bargaining, thereby removing much incentive for defendants to cooperate in investigations, and impeding the ability of prosecutors to obtain evidence against leaders of criminal organizations. The Dutch police do not have a standardized national databank of statistics on arrests for drug-related crime. According to police reports submitted to the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS), there were some 6,600 arrests in 1996 (latest available figures) for violations of the Opium Act, compared to 3,470 in 1995. According to the CBS, 15 percent of the total prison population in 1995 were drug offenders. Although the Ministry of Health is the coordinating ministry for drug policy, the Ministry of Justice is responsible for law enforcement. Matters relating to local government and the police are the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior. At the municipal level, policy is coordinated in the tripartite consultations among the mayor, the chief public prosecutor and the chief of police. Information sharing can be a problem. Dutch police and investigative agencies are required, for purposes of coordination, to furnish information and intelligence on criminal investigations to the Dutch national authorities (CRI). At times this process fails, resulting in two or more police entities targeting the same criminals, being unaware of the interest and activities of the others. It is unclear whether the CRI has line authority to enforce this information sharing policy.

The Netherlands has ratified both the 1988 UN Drug Convention and the 1990 Strasbourg Convention on Money Laundering and Confiscation. Measures to counter money laundering are being extended throughout the Kingdom. The U.S. and the Netherlands have agreements on extradition, mutual legal assistance, and asset sharing. The USG has concluded a Customs Mutual Assistance Agreement (CMAA) with the Dutch government. The Netherlands has enacted legislation on money laundering and controls on chemical precursors. It is a member of the UN Commission on Narcotics Drugs, the Major Donors group of the UNDCP, and participates in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). The Netherlands is a leading member of the Dublin Group. It actively is implementing the Schengen Agreement, the Benelux Agreement on Extradition, and the European Convention on Extradition and Mutual Assistance. The Dutch are members of various police and criminal justice working groups of the Pompidou Group.US-Dutch law enforcement cooperation is strong. The U.S. disagrees with aspects of Dutch domestic drug policy, particularly the toleration of "soft" drugs, but works closely with the Netherlands in fighting international crime, including drug trafficking and related money laundering.The U.S. and the Netherlands have fully operational extradition and mutual legal assistance treaties. Dutch government responses to U.S. requests under these treaties or for provisional arrests are good, but can be slow owing to the lack of line authority between the Ministry of Justice (which receives the requests) and the public prosecutors and police (who are tasked with responding to the requests). At times this system requires frequent reminders to Dutch authorities of pending - and sometimes time-sensitive - requests. This problem is the subject of bilateral consultations.

The Dutch Disclosure Office (MOT) has close links with the U.S. FinCEN (Department of Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network). A planned Memorandum of Understanding for expanded cooperation between FinCEN and the Netherlands MOT is still being negotiated. The MOT also is involved in efforts to expand cooperation between disclosure offices, particularly in the EU. The MOT participates in the Brussels and Paris meetings of the Egmont Group, which seeks to intensify cooperation worldwide between financial intelligence units. The U.S. and the Netherlands cooperate closely on law enforcement activities throughout the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and is working with the Kingdom to assist Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles in countering narcotics trafficking. High-level and working-level exchanges enhance information flow between U.S. and Dutch authorities and highlight areas of needed improvement in the bilateral relationship. Important exchanges during 1998 included the visit of the Director of U.S. ONDCP to the Netherlands and the visit of the Director General of the Dutch Ministry of Justice to Washington.The Netherlands is a member of the Dublin Group and chairs the Central European (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia) regional Dublin Group.

The Netherlands is a member of the Major Donors Group of the UNDCP. In 1998, the Netherlands pledged approximately $750,000 to the UNDCP.

US-Dutch bilateral cooperation is expected to remain strong. Improved methods for screening container traffic in the Port of Rotterdam will further counter narcotics efforts. The recently formed Dutch unit devoted to combating synthetic drugs such as ecstasy has made concrete progress, and more is expected. US-Dutch cooperation in countering trafficking in the Caribbean, already strong, will likely intensify. However, important differences in approaches toward "soft" drugs, as well as differing legal procedures and law enforcement structures could continue to complicate bilateral cooperation against drugs. We also will continue to view with critical interest Dutch "harm reduction" programs such as heroin distribution projects.



Internet research by Heng Hear and Terry Wesley

Criminology Links
Criminal Codes
Incidence of Crime
Drug Trafficking
Legal System
Human Rights
Juvenile Delinquency
Crime Prevention

Other Links
Online literature
Travel tips
International criminal justice agencies
Legal system
News and media
Correspondent email addresses
Distance learning courses
Comparative criminology-related sites

A Comparative Criminology Tour of the World
Dr. Robert Winslow
San Diego State University