Category: ‘neutrality’

Vooroordelen en AI

14 April 2017 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

Ik wist al van de Microsoft chatbot die al lerend het vuilbekken op Twitter had overgenomen. Maar dat was een ‘foutje’ in het systeem. In de Volkskrant van vandaag, 14 april, wordt verwezen naar een wetenschappelijke publicatie die veel interessantere conclusies toelaat.

Uit de studie blijkt dat AI systemen de vooroordelen overnemen die uit de menselijke taal te destilleren zijn. AI is op die manier te zien als een spiegel van de sociale moraal van onze samenlevingen. Dat is best een knauw voor ons zelfbeeld.

Finally: Research on stereotypes in police practice

16 October 2012 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

Independent researcher Sinan Çankaya did participant observation among street worker policemen in Amsterdam and had interviews and talks with them while smoking and drinking coffee. He wanted to find out if the Dutch police is the same as police elsewhere, picking out the black guys walking hooded on the streets to ask for their ID’s, stopping the Surinam men who drive in fancy cars etcetera. And yes, Çankaya found they are exactly the same. Reassuring on the one hand (Dutch policemen act like police in other countries), painful on the other (Dutch policemen act like police in other countries!).

Police so far reacted okay. “This is painful, but we need the discussion. We have to learn to select criminals based on what they do, on their deviant behaviour, not on what they look like.”

Hmm. Gee.

The research will be published later this year. Unfortunately only in Dutch. But just check the foreign books on the topic and you will know how Dutch policemen act .. 😉

Rutte: “Polygamous marriages do not fit into the Judeo-Christian tradition”

23 March 2012 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

The government wants to combat forced marriages in the Netherlands. The Cabinet today agreed on a bill that is “widely supported”, said Prime Minister Rutte at his weekly press conference.

The bill makes it impossible for minors in the Netherlands to marry (apparently still possible in exceptional cases). Also, marriages between first cousins ??will be forbidden. According to the government in such marriages coercion often plays a role. The marriage can still be concluded when coercion is absent. Furthermore, the possibilities to recognize polygamous marriages conducted abroad will be limited.

The exact wordings of the bill are not yet public. The bill has been sent to the Council of State for the obligatory advice. The bill will become public when it is send to Parliament.

See the press release of the Cabinet (in Dutch).

Seems like we are moving away from the neutral liberal state …

Supreme Court judges nominations #2

19 January 2012 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

Jan Loorbach is Dean of the Dutch Bar Association (Nederlandse Orde van Advocaten). In de Volkskrant of 18 January 2012 he said that the ‘row’ about de-nominating Aben as the next Supreme Court judge shows that the Supreme Court has allowed itself to be intimidated. According to Loorbach this is a bad sign for a state that upholds the rule of law; in fact it ‘erodes the rule of law’. A political party intervening in the process of nomination, ‘weak knees’ of the commission of the Second Chamber and of the Supreme Court – how much worse can it get? In Loorbachs opinion from now on every Supreme Court judge is suspect: he is considered ‘allowed to be there’ only as long as no political party protests …

Supreme Court judges nominations

2 January 2012 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

For quite a long time the Dutch legal culture around the nominations of Supreme Court judges was that the Supreme Court made a list of six preferred judges, and the first three were selected in the same order by the Second Chamber of Parliament, and the first one of the three was appointed judge by Royal Decree. In this way, under the guise of democratic influence, the Supreme Court actually could decide over who was to become judge.

Times have changed and the PVV is the big inducer of change in Dutch legal culture. They opposed to the Supreme Court putting a certain candidate as number 1. As a result he was put lower on the list. The case had two consequences: first was that the debate on the procedure is staged again (should it not be better to just have an open procedure in which candidates put themselves forward?), second that the delicate art of Dutch back room politics was under fire – who went to the press to make this story public??

Most influential people in the Netherlands

21 November 2011 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

De Volkskrant yearly has a network analysis to find out who are the top 200 influential people in the Netherlands (apart from government and Parliament). It is always an interesting list, especially because of our ideology of equality, democracy, and consensus building by way of ‘polderen’. On Saturday 12 November 2011 de Volkskrant had a new and updated list.

In the top 25, there are three women.

Princes Maxima as a woman and allochthon is on place 42.

The first ‘real’ allochthon Sadik Harchaoui (male, Moroccan background) is on place 100. Second is Turkish background woman Nurten Albayrak on place 187. Third is Moroccan background Rotterdam male mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb on place 190.

Out of 200 most influential people, 3 have a non-Dutch background. So far for equal opportunities.

Out of 200 most influential people, 43 are women. So far for gender equality.

Life Style Neutrality Code for Police

13 July 2011 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

On 23 June 2011 the Ministry of Safety and Justice, the ‘Organized Police Platform, and the Police Management Council published a new code concerning the ‘outward appearance’ of police officers. Authority, neutrality and safety should guide the police officer when s/he has contact with the general public. In any case a police officier, according to the new Code (which is in large part a codification of rules already in force), should refrain from the following:

1. the wearing or showing of signs of conviction, religion, political conviction, sexual preference, movement, association or any other form of life style, that prejudice the authority, neutrality and safety of the police officer (the footnote specifies: like a cross, a headscarf, a yarmulke, a beard worn with that intention (!), insignia, buttons, other signs etcetera)
2. visible accessories that in any way may cause harm (like large rings and earrings)
3. visible tattoos, visible piercings, or any other visible ostentatious ornamentings on the body
4 extraordinary hair dress and/or colour of hair (extreme length, mohawk, striking unnatural colour)

The Police Union in a first reaction to NRC Newspaper says it will ‘gedogen’ the code. (‘Gedogen’ is untranslatable; it refers to a typicality in Dutch legal culture in wich there is formal acceptance and an informal but publicly known pragmatic way of dealing with it. Like ‘coffeeshops’ actually: formally illegal, but ‘gedoogd’ in practice.) After all, police officers need to have some room for their own identity.

Orthodox Christian Political Party SGP & Women

10 April 2010 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

The SGP, a orthodox protestant political party, has always refused women fulfil a political function. Politics, according to this party’s interpretation of the bible, is a man’s job. There were several court cases in the past, especially because the Dutch state finances political parties. The state thus contravenes the CEDAW, the UN treaty against discrimination of women, the complaint in the Netherlands was. The Supreme Court rule on 9 April 2010 that this indeed is the case. From the summary on the site of the Dutch judiciary:

“The State must take measures that actually force the SGP to grant the right to women to stand for election. The State needs to adopt effective measures while at the same time least infringes the fundamental rights of (members of) the SGP.
The court is not empowered to prescribe specific measures that the State should adopt. The court cannot order the state to create legislation. Other measures require a political balancing of interests, which is not up to the court.”

See also ‘Forcing a party to accept women easier said than done‘ and ‘High court judges party’s religious beliefs‘ (both NRC).

Religious Symbols in Public Schools

11 November 2009 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

Below is the press release of the European Court of Human Rights concerning the display of religious symbols, in casu crucifixes, in classrooms in public schools. Nobody knows yet what the exact implications will be. Need every religious symbol be banned, like christmas trees, headscarves, maybe Santa Claus (Sint Nicolaas in Holland) – no seker bayram? anymore?
Why didn’t the court apply the ‘margin of appreciation’, like in the case of Leyla Sahin?

This is the link to the judgement (in French only).

Press release issued by the Registrar

Chamber judgment

Lautsi v. Italy (application no. 30814/06)


Violation of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 (right to education) examined jointly with Article 9 (freedom of thought, conscience and religion) of the European Convention on Human Rights

Under Article 41 (just satisfaction) of the Convention, the Court awarded the applicant 5,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage. (The judgment is available only in French.)

Principal facts

The applicant, Ms Soile Lautsi, is an Italian national who lives in Abano Terme (Italy). In 2001-2002 her children, Dataico and Sami Albertin, aged 11 and 13 respectively, attended the State school “Istituto comprensivo statale Vittorino da Feltre” in Abano Terme. All of the classrooms had a crucifix on the wall, including those in which Ms Lautsi’s children had lessons. She considered that this was contrary to the principle of secularism by which she wished to bring up her children. She informed the school of her position, referring to a Court of Cassation judgment of 2000, which had found the presence of crucifixes in polling stations to be contrary to the principle of the secularism of the State. In May 2002 the school’s governing body decided to leave the crucifixes in the classrooms. A directive recommending such an approach was subsequently sent to all head teachers by the Ministry of State Education.

On 23 July 2002 the applicant complained to the Veneto Regional Administrative Court about the decision by the school’s governing body, on the ground that it infringed the constitutional principles of secularism and of impartiality on the part of the public authorities. The Ministry of State Education, which joined the proceedings as a party, emphasised that the impugned situation was provided for by royal decrees of 1924 and 1928. On 14 January 2004 the administrative court granted the applicant’s request that the case be submitted to the Constitutional Court for an examination of the constitutionality of the presence of a crucifix in classrooms. Before the Constitutional Court, the Government argued that such a display was natural, as the crucifix was not only a religious symbol but also, as the “flag” of the only Church named in the Constitution (the Catholic Church), a symbol of the Italian State. On 15 December 2004 the Constitutional Court held that it did not have jurisdiction, on the ground that the disputed provisions were statutory rather than legislative. The proceedings before the administrative court were resumed, and on 17 March 2005 that court dismissed the applicant’s complaint. It held that the crucifix was both the symbol of Italian history and culture, and consequently of Italian identity, and the symbol of the principles of equality, liberty and tolerance, as well as of the State’s secularism. By a judgment of 13 February 2006, the Consiglio di Stato dismissed the applicant’s appeal, on the ground that the cross had become one of the secular values of the Italian Constitution and represented the values of civil life.

Complaints, procedure and composition of the Court

The applicant alleged, in her own name and on behalf of her children, that the display of the crucifix in the State school attended by the latter was contrary to her right to ensure their education and teaching in conformity with her religious and philosophical convictions, within the meaning of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1. The display of the cross had also breached her freedom of conviction and religion, as protected by Article 9 of the Convention.

The application was lodged with the European Court of Human Rights on 27 July 2006.

Judgment was given by a Chamber of seven judges, composed as follows:

Françoise Tulkens (Belgium), President,
Ireneu Cabral Barreto (Portugal),
Vladimiro Zagrebelsky (Italy),
Danut? Jo?ien? (Lithuania),
Dragoljub Popovi? (Serbia),
András Sajó (Hungary),
I??l Karaka? (Turkey), judges,

and Sally Dollé, Section Registrar.

Decision of the Court

The presence of the crucifix – which it was impossible not to notice in the classrooms – could easily be interpreted by pupils of all ages as a religious sign and they would feel that they were being educated in a school environment bearing the stamp of a given religion. This could be encouraging for religious pupils, but also disturbing for pupils who practised other religions or were atheists, particularly if they belonged to religious minorities. The freedom not to believe in any religion (inherent in the freedom of religion guaranteed by the Convention) was not limited to the absence of religious services or religious education: it extended to practices and symbols which expressed a belief, a religion or atheism. This freedom deserved particular protection if it was the State which expressed a belief and the individual was placed in a situation which he or she could not avoid, or could do so only through a disproportionate effort and sacrifice.

The State was to refrain from imposing beliefs in premises where individuals were dependent on it. In particular, it was required to observe confessional neutrality in the context of public education, where attending classes was compulsory irrespective of religion, and where the aim should be to foster critical thinking in pupils.

The Court was unable to grasp how the display, in classrooms in State schools, of a symbol that could reasonably be associated with Catholicism (the majority religion in Italy) could serve the educational pluralism that was essential to the preservation of a “democratic society” as that was conceived by the Convention, a pluralism that was recognised by the Italian Constitutional Court.

The compulsory display of a symbol of a given confession in premises used by the public authorities, and especially in classrooms, thus restricted the right of parents to educate their children in conformity with their convictions, and the right of children to believe or not to believe. The Court concluded, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 2 of Protocol No. 1 taken jointly with Article 9 of the Convention.


This press release is a document produced by the Registry; the summary it contains does not bind the Court. The judgments are accessible on its Internet site (

Press contacts
Frédéric Dolt (tel : + 33 (0)3 90 21 53 39) or

Stefano Piedimonte (tel : + 33 (0)3 90 21 42 04)
Tracey Turner-Tretz (tel : + 33 (0)3 88 41 35 30)
Kristina Pencheva-Malinowski (tel : + 33 (0)3 88 41 35 70)
Céline Menu-Lange (tel : + 33 (0)3 90 21 58 77)

Nina Salomon (tel + 33 (0)3 90 21 49 79)

The European Court of Human Rights was set up in Strasbourg by the Council of Europe Member States in 1959 to deal with alleged violations of the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights.

Under Article 43 of the Convention, within three months from the date of a Chamber judgment, any party to the case may, in exceptional cases, request that the case be referred to the 17-member Grand Chamber of the Court. In that event, a panel of five judges considers whether the case raises a serious question affecting the interpretation or application of the Convention or its protocols, or a serious issue of general importance, in which case the Grand Chamber will deliver a final judgment. If no such question or issue arises, the panel will reject the request, at which point the judgment becomes final. Otherwise Chamber judgments become final on the expiry of the three-month period or earlier if the parties declare that they do not intend to make a request to refer.

No tolerance towards the parafernalia of Police Officers

13 February 2009 Posted by Wibo van Rossum

In some aspects Dutch legal culture is like the Northern European countries, like Sweden and Norway. Pragmatic, social, with a great deal of tolerance. However, after some debate the Norwegian ministry of justice decided thatMuslim police officers are allowed to wear a headscarf. One of the reasons is to get the job vacancies filled. Another is the ‘mirror idea’: Personnel in public officies must mirror the diversity among the countries citizens.
In contrast, the situation for police officers in the Netherlands have only become more strict. They are not allowed piercings, earrings, nor visible tattoos. And of course no headscarves.
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