Rule of Law report 2022: Increased polarisation and lack of transparency
At the core of what the NHC stands for is the belief that real security & therefore sustainable, lasting peace can only be achieved by building democratic, free and rights-respecting societies. Recent events in Ukraine show that freedom and democracy can never be taken for granted, which makes our mission for human rights, and open and just societies now more relevant than ever.
In recent years, we have seen the political opposition to the concept of human rights and to the rule of law growing stronger. This position is most visible in the largest European countries, Russia and Turkey, as well as in several EU Member States. We believe that we must offer a stronger platform to civic society to counteract the shrinking civic space, and to better shield CSOs and HRDs from attacks in those countries where civic space and the rule of law are under pressure. We must do so precisely in order to stop the rise of autocratic regimes such as Putin’s, in Europe and beyond.
Within the EU, we believe part of the solution is the Report on the Rule of Law, describing and analysing the state of civil society in each Member State in a detailed manner.
The comprehensive Civil Liberties Union for Europe’s 2022 Rule of Law Report, which launched on February 15th 2022, serves as a source of information for both the European Commission and for other entities and parties interested in appraising the state of democracy in the EU, and covers 17 EU countries; tracking developments in the areas of justice, corruption, media and civic space, systemic human rights violations and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The NHC contributed information and commentary about the state of the Rule of Law in the Netherlands. The backsliding of Rule of Law and emerging restriction of human rights in the EU is something that we have been tracking with some concern in our day-to-day work. In the past year alone we organised an online event with the Legal Network for Protection of Democracy about rule of law developments in Slovenia, supported the premiere of the movie “Judges under pressure” about the situation in Poland, and organised an in-depth discussion between representatives of Dutch Ministries and participants of the Recharging advocacy for Rights in Europe (RARE) programme, about the current state of Rule of Law in the European Union.
For the 2022 Rule of Law report on the Netherlands, we called specific attention to:
- the justice system, noting significant developments capable of affecting the perception that the general public has of the independence of the judiciary, such as that citizens and civil society and grassroots organisations are not always sufficiently involved in the drafting of legislation (and policy).
- the anti-corruption framework, including measures to enhance integrity in the public sector and their application, noting there is still no general integrity strategy for the central government in the Netherlands, even though this has been a recommendation for years. There are currently also no specific provisions on trading in influence in the Netherlands legal framework, nor does the framework make any specific mention of banning illicit enrichment. General transparency of public decision-making is still insufficient: the decision periods are still too long compared to international standards, and it fails to mandate exhaustive lists of all available data that would enable the public to understand what they do and do not receive. There are still no laws regulating lobbying there are very few restrictions on party financing,
especially on the local level. There is a high level of risk of corruption related to trade. The Netherlands face difficulties combating international corruption cases. Since 2016, the Netherlands only successfully concluded two out of 18 foreign bribery cases.
- media freedom and pluralism, it has been uncovered that due to a lack of criteria for the selection of programmes, broadcasters are dependent on the discretionary power of the Dutch Foundation for Public Broadcasting, and that it remains important for public broadcasters and content creators to have strong informal relationships with the Dutch Foundation for Public Broadcasting. On top of this, the Dutch Foundation for Public Broadcasting lacks transparency when it comes to the way decisions are made and money is spent, for example regarding which programmes will be aired and/or what productions are financed
- other institutional issues related to checks and balances, noting that globally, as well as in Europe, civic space is under increasing pressure. In light of this worrying development, it is crucial that the Dutch government ensures an enabling space for civil society and does not unnecessarily or disproportionately restrict civic space. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought an increase of polarisation, not only in society but also in the political arena. For instance, during parliamentary debates, the far-right political party Forum for Democracy has expressed threats of future tribunals. The way communication takes place among politicians, academics and elsewhere in the public debate has taken a rather threatening and hostile tone. Although the EU may not be in the position to alter this occurrence, these developments do affect the rule of law in the Netherlands.
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