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Privacy First calls for moratorium on illegal operations with Dutch police drones

Friday, 10 May 2013

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 Netherlands. According to the Dutch Minister of Security and Justice Mr. Ivo Opstelten, the current use of drones for criminal investigation purposes is based on the general task of the police as described in Article 3 of the Dutch Police Act (Politiewet). However, this vague and brief provision was never designed for this purpose. Moreover, Article 8, paragraph 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) dictates that every governmental infringement on people's privacy has to be explicitly laid down in national legislation which is sufficiently accessible and foreseeable and contains guarantees against abuse (among which are privacy violations and 'function creep'). However, no specific Dutch legal basis for the use of drones by police exists yet, let alone a legal basis that would be sufficiently accessible and foreseeable and that includes privacy guarantees for Dutch citizens. The violation of people's privacy by the current use of drones is therefore in breach with Article 8 ECHR and hence unlawful.

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.