Skip to main content

Countdown to Human Rights Day

Get to know the climate activist working with us on human rights and climate change – Kaeden Watts

Learn more
Close

News Treaty bodies

Experts of the Committee on Enforced Disappearances Review the Netherlands in Absence of a Delegation

15 September 2023

Ask Questions on Disappearances of Unaccompanied Minors and Lack of Access to Compensation and Asylum in Caribbean Territories

The Committee on Enforced Disappearances today considered, in absence of a delegation, the additional information report submitted by the Netherlands under Article 29, paragraph four of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.  Committee Experts asked questions on disappearances of unaccompanied minors from asylum seeker reception centres, and lack of access to compensation for families of victims of enforced disappearance and to asylum for migrants in Caribbean territories.

Mohammed Ayat, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said he respected the State party’s efforts to address disappearances of unaccompanied minors from asylum seeker reception centres, while noting that it was a surprising phenomenon.  Had these minors been victims of human trafficking or enforced disappearances?  What measures were taken to prevent these serious occurrences?  Once minors were found, what guidance and protection measures were generally taken? 

Milica Kolakovic Bojovic, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said the right to compensation without the need to prove the death of the disappeared was not available in Caribbean territories.  What measures were being taken to provide access to this right in all territories of the Netherlands?  The rights of family members should be granted without a death declaration, for instance through a declaration of absence.  What was the progress made so far in that regard? 

Ms. Kolakovic Bojovic also said Dutch territories in the Caribbean did not provide effective access to asylum, pointing out that the legislation on national security and public order was used to return migrants to countries where they could face persecution.  She asked about measures taken to ensure that migrants had access to prompt remedies and the possibility of appealing deportations.

In his concluding remarks, Horacio Ravenna, Committee Vice-Chair, said that the Committee hoped to meet with the State party in the future to discuss developments related to the issues raised.  

The Committee will issue its concluding observations on the report of the Netherlands at the end of its twenty-fifth session, which concludes on 29 September.  Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here.  The programme of work of the Committee’s twenty-fifth session and other documents related to the session can be found here.

The Committee will next meet in public on Friday, 15 September at 3 p.m. to consider the additional information report submitted by Mexico under Article 29, paragraph four of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (CED/C/MEX/AI/2), and the follow-up to the Committee's visit report to Mexico in November 2021 under Article 33 of the Convention (CED/C/MEX/VR/1).

Report

The Committee has before it the additional information report submitted by the Netherlands under Article 29 (4) of the Convention (CED/C/NLD/AI/1)

Opening Statement

HORACIO RAVENNA, Committee Vice-Chair, said that the discussion would be carried out in the absence of the delegation from the Netherlands, as the State party was unable to attend.

Questions by Committee Experts

MOHAMMED AYAT, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, asked about progress in implementing the Convention across the entire territory of the Kingdom of Netherlands, including territories like Aruba, Curacao and Sint Maarten.  The State party had stated that the definition of enforced disappearances in legislation was fully in line with the Convention.  What progress had been made in bringing the national definition of “enforced disappearances” closer in line with Article 2 of the Convention?  The Expert called for additional information regarding the mitigating circumstances of the criminal offence of enforced disappearances.  What were the measures taken to review legislation to ensure that the minimum sentence for enforced disappearance took into account the extreme gravity of the offence?  Dutch judges could directly implement international law in the Netherlands, which had constitutional standing.  How might this procedure be applied in cases of enforced disappearances?  The Committee had already expressed concerns over the definition of “enforced disappearance” contained in Dutch legislation, which did not fully match with the Convention.  Could the judge use the Convention’s definition of enforced disappearance to implement a decision?  Further, there was an apparent contradiction between one law, which stated that provisions of international treaties could be invoked by individuals and their application enforced, and another law, which stated that the courts could not review acts of the Parliament for compatibility with rights provided by international norms.

MILICA KOLAKOVIC BOJOVIC, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said that the Committee regretted not having the State delegation in the room.  She called for data on enforced disappearances disaggregated by gender, ethnicity, and other important aspects, as well as on specific cases and convictions delivered.  Further, she requested data on the number of ongoing and finalised cases of missing migrants, and on the number of prosecutions and convictions regarding cases of human trafficking and smuggling to the Caribbean.  What measures were taken to prevent refoulement and promote mutual legal assistance with other State parties?   What steps had been taken towards ratifying Article 32 of the Convention?  National authorities could prosecute certain cases under universal jurisdiction on the basis of the Rome Statute.  Legislation criminalised enforced disappearance as a standalone crime. 

Dutch authorities had jurisdiction in cases when a foreign citizen committed the crime against a Dutch national, and when a Dutch national committed the crime abroad.  What were the outcomes of universal jurisdiction decisions, and the modalities for assessing such cases?  The State party still needed to include a provision in legislation to give access to information regarding enforced disappearances to victims’ families.  The right to compensation without the need to prove the death of the disappeared was not available in Caribbean territories.  What measures were being taken to provide access to this right in all territories of the Netherlands?  The rights of family members should be granted without a death declaration, for instance through a declaration of absence.  What was the progress made so far in that regard? 

MOHAMMED AYAT, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said he respected the State party’s efforts to address disappearances of unaccompanied minors from asylum seeker reception centres, while noting that it was a surprising phenomenon.  More information was needed on these incidents.  Had these minors been victims of human trafficking or enforced disappearances?  What measures were taken to prevent these serious occurrences?  Once minors were found, what guidance and protection measures were generally taken? 

The Government needed to promote the development of the international legal order.  One way for addressing this was through human rights conventions.  Many enforced disappearances took place in the context of immigration.  Would the State party ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families?  Mr. Ayat called for information on the detention of migrants.  Who could access such information?  The State party had reported that the General Inspectorate for Justice and Security was the body responsible for monitoring the Caribbean, while the council for the application of laws in the islands worked independently, monitoring detention centres.  How did the two bodies work, independently or jointly, to ensure prevention of human trafficking, illegal detention of migrants and other crimes, and to issue punishments on the islands?  Did these bodies receive adequate training?  They needed to be financially and operationally independent.  What were their administrative and budgetary capacities?

MILICA KOLAKOVIC BOJOVIC, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said Dutch territories in the Caribbean did not provide effective access to asylum.  Legislation on national security and public order was used to return migrants to countries where they could face persecution.  What measures were taken to ensure that migrants had access to prompt remedies and the possibility of appealing deportations?  The State needed to ensure that all law enforcement personnel involved in the deprivation of liberty received proper training that took into account specific target groups.  The Expert called for more information on implementation of Article 23 of the Convention.  What measures had been taken to review and annul adoptions taking place in the context of enforced disappearance?  

Closing Statement

HORACIO RAVENNA, Committee Vice-Chair, said that the Committee hoped to meet with the State party in the future to discuss developments related to the issues raised. 

Link: https://www.ungeneva.org/en/news-media/meeting-summary/2023/09/experts-committee-enforced-disappearances-review-netherlands