ANPPolice frisk demonstrators at an anti-corona measures protest on January 2, 2022
NOS Nieuws•morgen, 00:00
According to Amnesty International, the police in the Netherlands are keeping an unauthorized eye on demonstrators. Peaceful protesters are illegally checked for their identity documents and the data from such ID checks are stored in police databases for five years, the organization writes in a report. This goes against the right to privacy and the right to demonstrate, says Amnesty.
For the study, the organization tested the working method for ID checks. Dozens of protesters were also interviewed between 2020 and 2022. Interviewees called the police’s working method intimidating and some were shocked by the information available to the police.
Arbitrariness and abuse of power
The human rights organization states that there is hardly any supervision of the police’s surveillance methods. The powers are also said to be formulated too vaguely.
“The police in the Netherlands have too broad powers to determine for themselves who they stop and check during demonstrations,” says Dagmar Oudshoorn, director of Amnesty Netherlands. “This creates a great risk of arbitrariness, discrimination and abuse of power.”
The police assume that they are allowed to collect and analyze data from demonstrators without there being any indications of criminal offenses or plans to do so, the researchers write. This would be done with the argument to prevent disorder.
Need good reason for checking
In the Netherlands, identification is mandatory for everyone aged 14 and older, but the police may only ask for proof of identity if there is a good reason for this. It may concern threats of violence at public manifestations or demonstrations where riots ensue.
According to Amnesty, the police also regularly asks peaceful protesters for their ID. The data obtained about a demonstrator, such as name and address, is searchable by about 30,000 police officers, according to the report. They could add information they find relevant.
An interviewed demonstrator says that she has started a procedure to view her data. “In what I was allowed to see, I especially noticed the tone in which I was spoken about. The boa had said, among other things: ‘they also discriminate against us white people’.”
If the information from an ID check at a protest is kept for five years, the information may be kept for another five years in a secure environment, the human rights organization writes. A limited number of agents will then still have access to it. The personal information in police databases would also be automatically supplemented with data from the Municipal Personal Records Database.
The police denies to Amnesty that this method is unlawful. The automatic updating of personal data would be necessary to be able to contact a declarant or witness quickly. Nothing is done with the data, unless an agent searches specifically, the police say. There would also be a plan to allow the automatic completion of personal data in police databases only for specific groups.