Category: ‘politics’

Indigenous Australians may soon lose ancestral land

1 October 2015 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

Every year in my Antrhopology of Law course at Erasmus Law School, a large part of my teaching is devoted to Australian Aboriginals and their concept of law. 

This post, on Al Jazeera, shows again how the Australian government is blind to alternatives to their types of interventions, and crushes indigenous communities. The idea of ‘one law for all’ leads to devastating consequences for some.

Part of the article:

“Since its closure, most of the children who lived there have not returned to school, and youth suicides – cited by the government as a reason to close the town – have increased.

A 2011 Amnesty report found that the mortality rate for Aboriginal people living in urban areas was far higher than those living on ancestral lands. Some of Oombulgurri’s former residents are now homeless.

While the future of Western Australia’s indigenous communities remains uncertain, Aboriginal community organisers say the closure of these communities will bring social chaos and looking back on past policies, this plan could augur yet another lost generation of indigenous Australians.”

For the whole article:

Foucault on refugee crisis

1 October 2015 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

Interesting forecast of Michel Foucault in 1979 about refugees:

“Q. The refugee issue has come up many times in the past, but if there is a new historical aspect in the case of Vietnam, what might that be?  

A. In the twentieth century, genocides and ethnic persecutions happened frequently. I think that in the near future, these phenomena will happen again in new forms. First, because over the past few years, the number of dictatorial states has increased rather than diminished. Since political expression is impossible in their country and because they do not have the force necessary to resist, people repressed by dictatorship will chose to escape from their hell.

Second, in former colonies, states were created retained colonial borders as they were, so that ethnicities, languages and religions were mixed. This phenomenon creates serious tensions. In those countries, antagonisms within the population are likely to explode and bring about massive displacement and the collapse of state apparatuses.

Third, developed economic powers that needed labour from the Third World and developing countries have imported migrants from Portugal, Algeria or Africa. But, now, countries which no longer need this workforce because of technological evolution are attempting to send those migrants back. All these problems lead to that of population migration, involving hundreds of thousands and millions of people. And population migrations necessarily become painful and tragic and are inevitably accompanied by deaths and murders. I am afraid that what is happening in Vietnam is not only an after-effect of the past, but also a foreshadowing of the future.”

See for the citation:

Racism in the Netherlands – debate

19 August 2015 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

It is almost like the Dutch government these days (18 & 19 August) is sitting ‘in the dock’ in court, as one newspaper put it (NRC). The Dutch section of the International Commission of Jurists with many other NGO’s and the UN Commission for human rights/Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination concluded that the Netherlands does not do enough to combat racism. The government apparently is of the opinion that it does enough. ‘Discrimination namely is illegal. The law says so. There is no political party with a racist programme. And no politician was ever criminally convicted for racism.’ Some say the discussion ‘will only feed the anti-racism activists and the ‘asylum-industry’ with new arguments’. Others are of the opinion that ethnic profiling by the police, the high levels of unemployment among ethnic minorities, and the negative atmosphere surrounding the discussion on Black Pete, are real problems that should be tackled.

I think it is always interesting how the law can be used to ward of accusations. ‘According to the law it is illegal, so what are you talking about?’ Everybody knows however that daily routine and practice is not a mirror of the law: in actual practice people do have stereotypes, do prefer to hire employees from one group over the other, do discriminate. If the law apparently is not able to combat that, the question is if the government is doing enough by just referring to the law.

Powerful people in the Netherlands

11 January 2014 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

Every year De Volkskrant has a network analysis to find out who the people are with the most power in the Netherlands. Democratically chosen people are excluded. They make a Top 200. One thing is clear: the Netherlands is Paradise for employers. No 1 on the list for several years is Bernard Wientjes, head of the VNO-NCW lobby of employers organisations.

Some interesting facts:

– 25% is women (last year 20%); the first woman is on nr 10

– 5 have an ethnic minority background (last year only 1)

– average age is 58 (stable)

Such a top is always interesting, but the interpretations even more. What does it mean …?

Here is my blogpost from November 2011 on the same list.

Polemics and academics on human rights

15 December 2013 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

The political and media debate on human rights and the interference of ‘Strasbourg’ (the European Court of Human Rights) with national politics and law, that raged two years ago and that died down somewhat, has returned to the Netherlands these days. Probably because of the 65 year anniversary of the UDHR of the UN. Anyway, the University of Leiden Law School in the name of Bastiaan Rijpkema more or less repeated its ‘anti’ sentiment by stating in a newspaper article ‘Please, not even more human rights’. Rijpkema argues that the human rights movement shows disdain for democracy. ‘The right answer to political questions in contemporary society should be found in the human rights documents’, he reconstructs their way of reasoning. In stead human rights should focus on its core business, not on whether people should be allowed to have a satellite antenna on their rented house, or whether people living in the Heathrow area have a fundamental right not to be disturbed by airplane noise at night.

Max Pam argues polemically that human rights have proliferated enormously, and that they have become a bunch of contradictory ideals and recommendations with which all states – be they Saudi Arabia or the UK – can do what they like. They give no guidance anymore.

On the other hand there is people like Marie-Benedicte Dembour who argues that human rights are obsolete – not to argue that they should be abolished, but that they should be even more extended to make a defence of the welfare state possible. Law=politics, and judges should be activists. ‘More Strasbourg!’ because ‘politics are highjacked by capitalism and the large media concerns’.

Latest contribution is by political commentator Martin Sommer on the ‘National Plan of Action Human Rights’ that was presented by Amnesty International last Tuesday. He observes a kongsi of human rights activists that ‘cite each other in order to conclude that the Netherlands does not live up to human rights standards’. He cites the debate on the subsiding of houses in the province of Groningen due to gas winning. ‘Should people really need to argue in terms of the right not to live in fear when a case can be filed under tort??!’ His real addition to the debate however lies elsewhere: the human rights activists and believers never talk about solving contradictory rights, and never talk about who will pay for all this. In politics you not only have to deal with contradictory rights and how to balance them, but the balance also includes a budget.

‘Netherlands not a suitable country for orthodox Jews anymore’

18 October 2012 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

The Netherlands will cease to be a suitable country for orthodox Jews when current plans to check and control the process of ritual slaughter, says chief rabbi Aryeh Ralbag. Ralbag reacts to the new covenant between religious groups and the ministry. When this covenant is accepted is it is formulated right now, the civil servant who will check the process will be ‘above’ the rabbi, and this is unacceptable.

The ministry says it takes the complaints seriously. The rabbi will be invited for a talk.

See in Dutch the NRC.

Victory for the equality principle!

20 July 2012 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

The application at the European Court of Human RIghts of the SGP, the orthodox protestant political party that bans women form formal positions in the party on biblical grounds, was declared inadmissible. In 2010 the Supreme Court of the Netherlands ruled that the equality principle was more important than the freedom of religion, and that the ban  on women was thus contrary to law. The deal with the Dutch state was to ‘do nothing’ until the European Court had given a final verdict. And now we have it! In the last paragraphs the Court says:

“76. The issue in the present case is the applicant party’s position, restated in the present proceedings before the Court, that women should not be allowed to stand for elected office in general representative bodies of the State on its own lists of candidates. It makes little difference whether or not the denial of a fundamental political right based solely on gender is stated explicitly in the applicant party’s bye-laws or in any other of the applicant party’s internal documents, given that it is publicly espoused and followed in practice.

77. The Supreme Court, in paragraphs 4.5.1 to 4.5.5 of its judgment, concluded from Article 7 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women and from Articles 2 and 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights taken together that the SGP’s position is unacceptable regardless of the deeply-held religious conviction on which it is based (see paragraph 49 above). For its part, and having regard to the Preamble to the Convention and the case-law cited in paragraphs 70, 71 and 72 above, the Court takes the view that in terms of the Convention the same conclusion flows naturally from Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 taken together with Article 14.
78. That said, the Court must refrain from stating any view as to what, if anything, the respondent Government should do to put a stop to the present situation. The Court cannot dictate action in a decision on admissibility; it is, in any case, an issue well outside the scope of the present application.
79. It follows that the application is manifestly ill-founded and must be rejected in accordance with Article 35 §§ 3 (a) and 4 of the Convention.

For these reasons, the Court unanimously
Declares the application inadmissible.”

So hurray for the equality principle! But ‘not so hurray’ for the freedom of religion of a really tiny minority group. And not so hurray either for the tolerance of diversity.

On ‘gedogen’ of illegal students

27 June 2012 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

In May a Dutch judge decided that illegal students, for example asylum seekers who were turned down but still stay in the Netherlands, have a right to do an internship if that is part of the study requirements. The right to education comes first, the judge said, and an internship does not count as ‘work’. Minister Leers of integration this week announced that he will fight the decision on appeal. This means that legally internship still counts as work, and thus companies and organizations with illegal internship students have to pay a fine.

The announcement of Leers led to heated debate in Parliament of pros and cons of seeing an internship as work or as part of education. The solution, typically Dutch and typically politics, is to postpone the decision to change the law until after elections in September. In the mean time, the ‘gedogen’ construction is taken out of the Dutch cupboard. ‘Gedogen’ means that an illegal situation will not be prosecuted. Leers agreed to instruct the Labour Inspection to look the other way when illegal students are spotted.

In the mean time, some schools and universities have always defied legal rules on this point. They took the risk of being fined. And besides that there was the ‘Naughty Fund’ that collected money to pay the fines of institutions and illegals. Some interesting resistance … 😉

Tax culture

19 June 2012 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

Paying tax is not something that people like to do, generally. The State is usually seen as an anonymous agency that is out for your money only to spend it on things that you don’t want to contribute to. Paying tax, collecting tax, and enforcing tax laws interestingly differs per legal culture. Last weekend newspaper De Volkskrant had two large stories on tax culture. One on Greece, in which the main message was that ‘the Greek perceive it as a dishonour to follow the rules’ (citation of a prof), and that it is always a good thing to cheat on the state.

The other story was on the Netherlands. The tendency of tax law enforcement, partly due to budget cuts, is to ‘trust the companies’ in the figures they provide. In recent years the assignment from politics and from people up in the ministerial hierarchy is that ‘vertical’ controls and checks on companies should be reduced to the minimum, and that ‘horizontal’ controls should be encouraged. Insiders who are frustrated by the tax evasions they witness right under their nose, ring the bell because the state is wrong to ‘trust’ the companies. Simple legal-economical calculations of course would have predicted long ago that a lower level of law enforcement leads to an increase in the evasion of rules. This is something the Dutch state does not seem to realize.

Youth café’s in Urk

13 May 2012 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

Urk, the small town – once island – traditionally focused on sea fishing

Grotere kaart weergeven

was in the news today with so-called ‘jeugdhonken’ – places for the youth to meet and gather and have fun, but that more and more seem to function as café’s. Illegal café’s that is, because they operate without a license for selling beer and other alcoholics.

The national news showed an industrial area, where the young rent garage boxes for about € 400 a month and restyle them into ‘fancy places’ that probably look like the bars their parents visit.

Their arguments are ‘it is cheap and ‘gezellig’ and there is no fighting like in town’. There are regular visits from police and fire brigade, to check if safety is in order, not to close them down (!). Interestingly, mayor Jaap Kroon (Christian Democrats) is behind the youth. Only if it becomes too large and not a ‘friends meeting’ anymore, he would intervene, he said. And by the way, this is traditional Urk legal culture, as he referred to ‘the kotters [fishing boats] which in the past had always a double function of fishing boat and meeting and drinking place.’

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