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NHC memo to parliamentarians: Alertness and Action needed for human rights in Europe

18 May 2021

After the 17 March 2021 elections, the Netherlands Helsinki Committee has called on the newly composed Parliamentary Committees on Foreign Affairs, European Affairs and Justice and Security to be alert and active in the protection of human rights in Europe, including in the Netherlands. An eight-page memo (in Dutch) asks for heightened attention to roll back authoritarian tendencies in governance in a range of countries in Europe. In this respect, the capabilities of the Council of Europe and the European Union (EU) need to be harnessed and fully utilized. Parliamentary Mechanisms put in place by the previous parliament to monitor and discuss Rule of Law developments in the EU should be continued, and political attention for increasing Council of Europe effectiveness should be greatly enhanced.

Persistent and high-profile attention for human rights is also important in bilateral relations. The memo sees the desire to engage with impunity in corruption as a major engine for autocratic developments. The fight against corruption, and against the use of the Netherlands as a channel for corruption or as a place to guard money resulting from corruption should therefore receive the highest priority. The March 2021 NHC report Tackling Russian Elite’s Corruption: Mission Impossible? discusses several ways in which the aforementioned can be achieved.

Human rights and Rule of Law in the Netherlands also require heightened attention from the new parliament. The memo refers to the so-called childcare allowances scandal, in which the tax service for many years unjustly targeted thousands of parents over alleged fraud. Finally, last year a parliamentary investigation was held, leading to a report entitled Unprecedented Injustice. Follow-up steps include a request for advice on “improving the legal protection of citizens” to the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, due to be issued in autumn 2021.