Since September 2012, Dutch Minister Ivo Opstelten has been planning to equip the entire Dutch police force with Taser weapons. At the request of the Privacy First Foundation, the Dutch government will have to answer some tough questions about this before the UN Committee against Torture.
One of the most important and most ratified human rights treaties in the world is the 1984 United Nations Convention against Torture. Under this Convention, torture is prohibited under all circumstances. Anyone who is guilty of torture anywhere in the world is to be prosecuted or extradited. This also applies to civil servants, ministers, presidents and heads of State. The Netherlands has been a party to the UN Convention against Torture since 1988. Periodically, every country that has ratified the Convention is examined by the supervisory treaty body in Geneva: the UN Committee against Torture (CAT). This upcoming Tuesday and Wednesday it's the Netherlands' turn to come under CAT's scrutiny: on Tuesday the Netherlands will be cross-examined by the Committee on various issues, after which the Dutch delegation will come up with answers on Wednesday. Subsequently, the Committee will make a number of critical recommendations (''Concluding Observations'') to the Netherlands.
In preparation of the Dutch session, the Privacy First Foundation, the Dutch National Human Rights Institute (College voor de Rechten van de Mens) and the Dutch section of the International Commission of Jurists (Nederlands Juristen Comité voor de Mensenrechten, NJCM) have recently sent so-called 'shadow reports' about the Netherlands to the Committee in Geneva. Both Privacy First and NJCM emphatically raised the issue of Taser weapons for the Dutch police. Privacy First did so through a special letter to the Committee: click HERE. In this letter Privacy First draws the Committee's attention to the intention of the Dutch Minister of Security and Justice Mr. Ivo Opstelten to soon supply every Dutch police officer with his/her own Taser weapon. (Currently 'only' the arrest teams of the Dutch police force are equipped with Taser weapons.) In the view of Privacy First, the use of Taser weapons can easily lead to a violation of the international ban on torture as well as the related right to physical integrity, which in turn is part of the right to privacy. Taser weapons lower the treshold for police violence and hardly leave behind any scars. At the same time Taser weapons can inflict serious physical damage and mental harm. In conjunction with the current lack of firearms training for Dutch police officers, this produces serious risks for the Dutch population. Therefore we have requested the Committee to critically examine the Netherlands about this and to advise against introducing Taser weapons for the entire Dutch police force. Last Friday, Privacy First was notified from Geneva that the UN Committee will indeed critically examine this issue. This week Privacy First will keep you up-to-date of the latest developments.
Update 13 May 2013, 23.00h: a livestream of the Dutch session can be viewed online HERE (Tuesday 10am-3pm, Wednesday 3pm).
Update 14 May 2013, 15.00h: Today the Dutch delegation in Geneva (under the chairmanship of the Dutch Permanent Representative to the UN) was critically questioned by the Committee on various issues, among which... Tasers. The Dutch answers will follow tomorrow afternoon at 15.00h. Below are the relevant parts both in text as well as in mp3:
Committee member Nora Sveaass (Norway): "I then want to bring the attention to something that I've been informed of, namely that the State [of the Netherlands] is planning on a pilot of using Taser weapons as a regular weapon within the police force. And the pilot is supposed to take place, I understand, the last half of this year, so it's probably just around the corner. This Committee has on many different occasions warned against the use of Tasers, both in special situations and especially as a regular weapon to all the police, as I understand the plans are. And there are a lot of reasons for this, I won't go into the detail, because these have been described both by this Committee and by a lot of others, because, first of all, health reasons, physical as well as psychological. So I would hope that you would rethink and perhaps change the decision of implementing a pilot and also doing it in practice."
Committee member Fernando Mariño Menéndez (Spain): "I'm also concerned by the decision that we've heard about to generalize the use of Tasers by all regular police officers, as just referred to by Mrs. Sveaass, that the Tasers will be used as an [armament] for standard use across the Kingdom of the Netherlands. That's our understanding, perhaps we're wrong, perhaps there is a special protocol governing the use of Tasers. Our position as a Committee is that Tasers shouldn't be used at all. If they are to be used, and this seems to be dangerous, then they need to be used in very specific cases and properly regulated. We'd like to know what's happening in the Kingdom of the Netherlands."
Update 14 May 2013, 16.45h: This afternoon Privacy First employee Vincent Böhre was interviewed about this topic on Dutch radio station FunX. You can listen to the entire interview (in Dutch) here:
Update 15 May 2013: This afternoon the Netherlands had the opportunity to answer the questions that were asked by the UN Committee yesterday. In the audio file below you can hear how the Dutch Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva denies and downplays the Dutch plans concerning Taser weapons. For the Committee members this was no reason to tone down or withdraw their critical remarks made yesterday. Therefore, Privacy First expects the Committee to express sharp criticism on the Dutch Taser plans in its Concluding Observations that are soon to be issued. Tonight the Committee already published a press release about the Dutch session; click HERE.
Update 16 May 2013: An integral video registration of both session days of the UN Committee is online HERE. The Concluding Observations of the Committee about the Netherlands will follow on Friday afternoon 31 May 2013 (June 3rd at the latest), Privacy First was told by telephone from Geneva today.
Update 22 May 2013: as a result of the Dutch session before the UN Committee last week, Dutch opposition party D66 today has posed a series of critical Parliamentary questions to Minister Opstelten; click HERE (in Dutch).
Update 31 May 2013: As predicted earlier by Privacy First and as reported tonight by Dutch television news program EenVandaag, the UN Committee against Torture has issued a negative statement today about Minister Opstelten's plans to equip the entire Dutch police force with Taser weapons:
"The Committee is concerned about the pilot plan to be reportedly launched to distribute electrical discharge weapons to the entire Dutch police force, without due safeguards against misuse and proper training for the personnel. The Committee is concerned that this may lead to excessive use of force (arts. 2, 11 and 16). The Committee recommends to the State party, in accordance with articles 2 and 16 of the Convention, to refrain from flat distribution and use of electrical discharge weapons by police officers. It also recommends adopting safeguards against misuse and providing proper training for the personnel to avoid excessive use of force. In addition, the Committee recommends that electrical discharge weapons should be used exclusively in extreme limited situations where there is a real and immediate threat to life or risk of serious injury, as a substitute for lethal weapons." (para. 27. Click HERE for the entire document.)
The Privacy First Foundation hopes that this negative stance by the UN Committee will lead to a reconsideration and withdrawal of the Dutch plans to equip every Dutch police officer with a Taser weapon. Privacy First also hopes that the announced pilot will not be executed.
From the response to Parliamentary questions (in Dutch) it emerged this week that there is no specific legal basis for the secret use of drones by police in the
Without a specific legal basis in accordance with Article 8 paragraph 2 ECHR, every police drone constitutes an inadequate means of criminal investigation that shouldn't be used. Therefore the use of such drones should be suspended with immediate effect. In individual criminal cases, it is up to the judge to exclude information gathered with police drones from legal proceedings as it concerns unlawfully obtained evidence.
Privacy First hereby makes an urgent appeal to the Dutch House of Representatives to institute a moratorium on the further use of drones. Such a moratorium should only be lifted after a broad democratic debate has taken place and the use of drones has been properly regulated. In case the current Dutch situation will continue to be politically tolerated, Privacy First reserves the right to enforce a moratorium in court.
Model Municipality Guarantee Letter 2.0
In case you are in need of a new Dutch passport or ID card even though you find it a problem having your fingerprints taken, you can protest against this and cover yourself against the possible consequences of how the Dutch government will deal with your personal data by using the letter below. You can download the Municipality Guarantee Letter for personal use in PDFor in Word-format.
Privacy First has already filled in some possible objections in the model letter. However, you can alter or complete the letter to your own wishes.
At your request your municipality is obliged to accept this Municipality Guarantee Letter, according also to the Dutch National Ombudsman. See also the report about this in Dutch national newspaper De Telegraaf of 22 April 2010.
MODEL MUNICIPALITY GUARANTEE LETTER IN CASE OF A NEW PASSPORT OR ID CARD WITH FINGERPRINTS
Municipality [name of your municipality]
Attn [name of the mayor or the name of the authorised representative of the municipality]
[Address town hall]
[Postal code] [City]
[Your place of residency], [Date]
Dear Sir/Madam [name of the mayor],
You, or one of your officials has stated that on account of the new Dutch Passport Act it is not possible for me to apply for a passport and/or ID card without me providing fingerprints. These fingerprints will be stored in an RFID-chip in my passport or ID card that can be read from a distance.
I hereby protest against the taking of my fingerprints on the following grounds:
1) Having my fingerprints taken constitutes a violation of my human dignity. Fingerprints are to be taken of criminal suspects. Not of innocent citizens.
2) My fingerprints are, and remain, my property. The government has no say over this.
3) Current fingerprint technology (biometrics) does not work in 21-25% of cases. Going ahead with it is a waste of funds at the expense of citizens.
4) By having my fingerprints taken I risk becoming a victim of (biometric) identity fraud, for example after (the RFID-chip in) my passport or ID card has been stolen, lost or hacked into.
This situation constitutes an illicit restriction of my right to the protection of my private life as laid down in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Therefore I only provide my fingerprints under protest of having to do so.
Moreover, I would like to point out to you that all actions carried out by the municipality with regard to my fingerprints have to comply with the rules of the Dutch Data Protection Act (Wet bescherming persoonsgegevens, Wbp).
I hereby request you to declare, by signing this letter, that the municipality has taken note of my objections and will only process my fingerprints in compliance with the Wbp. This implies, among other things, that the municipality:
1) will process my fingerprints in a fair and accurate way;
2) will not proceed to further process my fingerprints in ways incompatible with the purposes for which the fingerprints have been obtained (viz., the issuance of a passport and/or ID card);
3) will not provide my fingerprints to any third parties without my explicit prior approval;
4) will not store my fingerprints any longer than is necessary for the realization of the purposes for which the fingerprints have been collected or processed (viz., the issuance of a passport and/or ID card); and
5) will protect my fingerprints against any loss or any form of unlawful processing by means of suitable technical and organizational measures.
I would like to receive this signed letter five days from now at the latest at the address indicated below.
Nothing in this letter may be assumed to be a recognition of the right of the municipality to carry out the above-described actions with my fingerprints. The content of this letter does not restrict any of my rights, all of which are reserved. Furthermore, I would like to point out to you that in case the municipality will process my fingerprints without taking the Wbp into account, or in any other illicit way, the municipality is bound to reimburse any possible damage suffered by me as a consequence.
Signed for agreement on behalf of the municipality,
"Die niederländische Polizei hat seit 2009 in 132 Fällen Drohnen eingesetzt, um unterschiedliche Straftaten zu klären oder Lagebilder zu erstellen. Die Verfolgung von Fluchtautos mit Kameras und das Aufspüren von Cannabis-Plantagen mit Wärmekameras bildeten dabei die Mehrzahl der Einsätze. Dies geht aus Angaben des niederländischen Infrastruktur- und Innenministeriums hervor, das allerdings Details zu den Drohnen-Einsätzen verweigerte. Das findet der anfragende Abgeordnete Gerard Schouw von der Partei D66 untragbar: Der Drohneneinsatz müsse öffentlich kontrollierbar sein und eine rechtliche Grundlage haben.
Gegenüber dem niederländischen Programm von RTL erklärte Schouw, dass ohne genaue Auskünfte und Kontrollmöglichkeiten der Einsatz von Drohnen in einer Grauzone stattfinde. "Aus welcher Entfernung werden da unschuldige Bürger gefilmt? Niemand hat eine Ahnung, was da passiert."
Unterstützung erhielt Schouw von der niederländischen Datenschutzorganisation Privacy First. Deren Anwalt Vincent Böhre erklärte, dass die Kameraüberwachung mit Drohnen eine Überwachungstechnik ist, die nach dem niederländischen Recht nicht erlaubt sei.
Ähnlich äußerte sich der Jurist Leon Wecke von der Universität Radboud. "Wir werden überall von Kameras verfolgt. Nun sind es auch noch Drohnen, denen wir uns nicht bewusst sind." Dies sei eine Verletzung der Privatsphäre, erklärte Wecke gegenüber dem Internet-Nachrichten Nu.nl. Drohnen bedürften daher einer eigenständigen gesetzlichen Regelung, betonte Wecke. Zu den Drohneneinsätzen soll es in Arnhem, Amsterdam, Almere und Rotterdam gekommen sein. Wegen fortlaufender technischer Probleme soll die Amsterdamer Polizei ihre Drohnen inzwischen außer Dienst gestellt haben.
In Deutschland hatten zuletzt die Grünen auf einer Fachtagung über den Einsatz von Drohnen diskutiert und dabei über Polizeidrohnen ebenso wie über Militärdrohnen gesprochen. Die Videos dieser Tagung sind mittlerweile online verfügbar."
Source: Heise Online, 23 March 2013.
"The police are increasingly using unmanned aircraft in their efforts to track down criminals in the Netherlands, leading to MPs' questions about the privacy implications.
Drones - small helicopters equipped with cameras - are used to trace burglars and getaway cars as well as illegal marijuana plantations. For example, Harlingen borrowed two drones from the defence ministry last year after a spate of burglaries in the Frisian town.
Since 2009, drones have been used in at least 40 areas, the AD reported on Monday. In total, they were in the air on at least 132 different days.
D66 parliamentarian Gerard Schouw has asked the justice ministry to explain the implications of the use of drones on privacy.
'I understand they can be useful, but they need to have a basis in law,' he is quoted as saying by RTL news. 'How closely can innocent citizens be filmed. No-one has a clue what they are filming.'
Lawyer Vincent Böhre from the Privacy First foundation said the use of drones is illegal because the flights are not made public.
'It is a form of camera supervision which is not allowed under Dutch law,' he told the broadcaster. The use of drones also infringes European privacy laws, he said.
Amsterdam city council said earlier this year it had grounded its two €29,000 drones because of continuing technical problems."
Source: Expatica.com (Netherlands), 18 March 2013.
"Dutch lawmakers and lawyers say they are questioning the increasing use of unmanned aircraft by police to track criminals and locate marijuana plantations.
The drones have been used for at least 132 days in at least 40 areas since 2009, DutchNews.nl reported Monday.
The city of Harlingen borrowed two drones from the defense ministry in 2012 after a rash of burglaries.
"I understand they can be useful, but they need to have a basis in law," said parliamentarian Gerard Schouw after asking the defense ministry to explain the implications the drones may have on privacy.
"How closely can innocent citizens be filmed," he queried. "No one has a clue what they are filming."
Use of the drones is illegal under Dutch law and may violate European privacy laws, said attorney Vincent Bohre of the Privacy First Foundation.
Amsterdam city officials said earlier this year they had grounded their two drones because of technical problems."
Source: UPI.com (United Press International, USA), 18 March 2013.
"Son yıllarda Hollanda polisinin yasadışı faaliyetlerle mücadele konusunda daha fazla oranda insansız uçaklardan kullandığı belirtildi.
AD gazetesinin yer alan bir haberde, "drones" adı verilen insansız uçakların özellikle insan ve uyuşturucu ticareti veya yasadışı suç örgütlerinin araştırıldığı belirtildi. Son dönemlerde bu uçakalrın daha sık kullanıldığı belirtilen haberde 2009'dan bu yana en az 132 kez kullanıldığı belirtildi.
Altyapı ve Çevre Bakanlığı, Güvenlik ve Adalet Bakanlığı ve İçişleri Bakanlığı verilerine göre Hollanda üzerinde en az 40 noktada adı geçen uçakların uçtuğu ve son dönemlerde bu sayıda artma olduğu belirtiliyor.
Gizlilik Birincilik Vakfı (De stichting Privacy First), polis tarafından kullanılan bu uygulamanın, haber verilmeden yapıldığını bundan dolayı da yasadışı olduğunu belirtiyor.
Öte yandan D66 milletvekili Gerard Schouw'da Mecliste bu konu hakkında açıklama isteyeceğini belirtirken "bu tür kontroller yasal ve kontrol edilebilir şekilde olmalı. Şuanda hiç bir şey bilmiyoruz"dedi.
Polis geçtiğimiz yıl Aralık ve bu yıl Şubat ayında Savunma Bakanlığına ait olan Drones uçaklarını Harlingen'deki hırsızlık olaylarını çözmek için kulandığını belirtmişti."
Bron: SonHaber.nl, 18 March 2013
As of 2 October 2012, the new Dutch National Human Rights Institute (College voor de Rechten van de Mens, CRM) will open its doors. Recently the Institute under formation established the essential pillars of its policy for the coming years, namely 1) care for the elderly, 2) immigrants and 3) discrimination on the labor market. However, of all human rights, in recent years the right to privacy is worst off in the Netherlands. Contrary to the above mentioned pillars (that concern vulnerable groups of people), the right to privacy appertains to anyone who finds him or herself on Dutch soil. In essence this has turned the entire Dutch population into a vulnerable group, especially in comparison to the situation in other countries where the protection of privacy is much better regulated. A few years ago the right to privacy was even about to become a complete illusion in the Netherlands. In May 2009 this state of affairs led to the foundation of the Dutch Platform for the Protection of Civil Rights (Platform Bescherming Burgerrechten) in which various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have joined forces. This week the Platform sent the below appeal (co-authored and signed by Privacy First) to the chairman of the future National Human Rights Institute, Laurien Koster:
Dear Ms. Koster,
Today, of all human rights, the right to privacy finds itself under the most pressure. Therefore, it is with concern that the Platform for the Protection of Civil Rights recently took note of the three essential pillars of the National Human Rights Institute for the coming years, namely 1) care for the elderly, 2) immigrants and 3) discrimination on the labor market. Not willing to take anything away from the social importance of these three pillars, in this letter we ask you to still consider adopting privacy as one of the pillars of your Institute.
In recent years, there seems to be the tendency in the Netherlands to confront every social problem with a standard formula, that is say, more digital registration, more linkage of files, opening up systems and central databases that become accessible to ever more officials and third parties, restriction of professional autonomy, preventive controls and profiling. It seems as if people, especially politicians, influenced as they are by the media and the vox populi – which in turn is affected by the media – think that these instruments exert a certain control over society that should lead to more order, tranquillity and security. In our opinion the opposite effect is increasingly the case. After all, digitalization implies that the quantity of data that is stored of every citizen becomes ever greater and less clear and less controllable. This especially applies to data that have been inserted or linked up erroneously or that are obsolete. The exponential growth of digital registrations sees a dramatic increase in risks of data leakages while new forms of identity fraud and identity theft arise. This means that the insecurity of digital systems becomes a direct threat to citizens. Furthermore, there’s a risk that citizens become their own digital ‘doubles’ through digital profiling. This implies that the autonomy of the free citizen who participates in society – a characteristic so very important in a democratic constitutional State – is seriously put at stake.
Going back to a society without the Internet or digital files is by no means what we advocate for (if it were possible anyway). However, a sensible use of technological means, among which data storage, biometrics and other such technological assets, will be necessary to retain our democratic constitutional State and affiliated fundamental rights. Particularly in these times of unforeseen technological possibilities we should once more realize how important the fundamental principles of our society are. Therefore, it should every time be assessed what is within the boundaries of acceptability and to what extent possible alternatives on a human scale, such as personal contact but also assistance and service, are desirable or necessary.
Privacy constitutes the basis of our democratic constitutional State. Without privacy many other human rights are at issue, among which are the right to confidential communication and freedom of speech, non-discrimination, freedom of movement, association and assembly, demonstration, culture and religion, press freedom as well as the right to a fair trial. Apart from that we observe that in the Netherlands the right to privacy can only rely on patchy protection by government supervision, that is to say, it only concerns the protection of personal data. As far as the protection of personal privacy in the broadest sense of the word is concerned (and this includes the inviolability of the home and the right to physical integrity) there is hardly any government supervision. Moreover, with regard to the realization and compliance to as well as the protection and promotion of the right to privacy in conjunction with other human rights, government supervision is lacking altogether. It is especially in these areas that your Institute has added value and can help overcome the ‘human rights gap’ that has come into existence in the Netherlands in recent decades.
We hope that your Institute will still make the right to privacy one of its policy pillars. If you wish, the organizations that together form the Platform for the Protection of Civil Rights are happy to supply you with information and advice.
On behalf of the participants of the Platform for the Protection of Civil Rights I remain respectfully yours.
chairman of the Platform for the Protection of Civil Rights
On behalf of the Platform participants:
Humanistisch Verbond (Humanist Association)
Stichting KDVP (KDVP Foundation; Dome of DBC Free Practices)
Stichting Meldpunt Misbruik ID-plicht (Contact Point on Abuse of Mandatory Identification)
Ouders Online (Parents Online)
Stichting Privacy First (Privacy First Foundation)
Burgerrechtenvereniging Vrijbit (Civil rights society Vrijbit)
Jacques Barth (on behalf of Stichting Brein en Hart i.o. (Brain and Heart Foundation under formation)
Joyce Hes (advisor to the Platform for the Protection of Civil Rights)
Kaspar Mengelberg (on behalf of DeVrijePsych (The Free Psychiatrist))
A pdf version of this letter can be found HERE (in Dutch)
Update: in a written reply (pdf) the Institute under formation notifies that in the Netherlands there is indeed ‘‘still a lot to be done to safeguard the right to privacy’’. The Institute also acknowledges the limited mandate of the Dutch Data Protection Authority (College Bescherming Persoonsgegevens). However, for the time being the Institute sticks to its intended strategic agenda. Nevertheless, in the future (also the coming three years) the Institute ‘‘can’t and won’t distance itself from problems when realizing the right to privacy’’. Privacy First will be eager to remind the Institute of this in urgent cases.
On 22 October 2012 our next networking drink around a topical issue will take place at the Privacy First office in the former building of de Volkskrant newspaper in Amsterdam. As a follow-up to the recent lecture by the Head of the Dutch General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) Rob Bertholee, we have invited Wil van Gemert to further expand on the theme of cyber security. Mr. Van Gemert is Director Cyber Security of the NCTV, the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism and he will prepare a lecture at the interface of security and privacy in cyberspace. What exactly is cyber security and what are the current challenges and problems in this area? What role does the government fulfil with regard to developments in cyber security? And what is the best way to strike a balance between privacy and security? Investigative journalist Brenno de Winter will moderate the discussion. During the lecture there will be plenty of opportunity for questions and discussion with the audience. Afterwards we will go for a drink in café-restaurant Canvas where DJ Wong and DJ Broky B will take care of the music.
Date: Monday 22 October 2012, starting time 19.30h. The doors will be opened at 19.00h.
Location: Wibautstraat 150, 1091 GR Amsterdam. The lecture and discussion will be held at ground level (Big Room), afterwards the informal party will take place at the 7th floor (Canvas). An itinerary can be found here.
Update 6 November 2012: click HERE for our account of the night.