Ethnic profiling

Foto ‘A Protester with London’s “Black Lives Matter” March in Oxford Street – 8 July 2016‘ door Alisdare Hickson, CC BY-NC 2.0

Ethnic profiling

Ethnic profiling occurs when police use racial, ethnic, national, or religious characteristics to single people out for stops and searches without otherwise justifiable reason. Ethnic profiling results in impermissible discrimination and, thus, constitutes a violation of international human rights treaties. Furthermore, it damages people’s confidence in the police and justice system.

A report by Amnesty International identifies the key issues surrounding ethnic profiling in police checks in the Netherlands. Profiling leads to a negative perception of ethnic minorities in the community and affects the overall legitimacy of the Dutch police force. Civilians are often unaware of their rights, and police have broad surveillance powers that can make overreach easy.

This broad competence is also challenging for police executing their duty on the street, as it can become unclear when they are within their right to conduct checks, and when their conduct amounts to discrimination. How can police then safeguard a community’s human rights? Given that profiling is most often experienced by young men, as demonstrated by the report of the Netherlands Institute for Social Research (SCP), they are particularly vulnerable to this type of discrimination

What does the PILP do?

>>> Shortcut to important documents: Summons | Pleadings | Guide on Strategic Litigation

The PILP aims to shed light on the issue of ethnic profiling by police in the Netherlands. The purpose of this case is to compel clarity regarding the scope of political and judicial competences concerning identity, traffic checks and preventive searches. Together with Amnesty International and Controle Alt Delete, we will work to propose solutions to the discrimination faced by those targeted by ethnic profiling.

PILP files complaint on ethnic profiling by Royal Netherlands Marechaussee

On June 11, 2018, the PILP filed a complaint on behalf of Mpanzu Bamenga regarding ethnic profiling by the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee (military police). This, to address and stop the issue of ethnic profiling by the military police. The complaint could lead to more awareness on the issue amongst the military police and is important with regards to statistics on ethnic profiling.

The PILP and Mpanzu Bamenga are working on this issue with Amnesty International NederlandControle Alt Delete, RADAR and DeGoedeZaak.

Lawsuit against Royal Netherlands Marechaussee because of ethnic profiling

>>> Important documents in this case: Summons | Pleadings

Royal Marechaussee summoned in court

The Royal Marechaussee is summoned to appear in court for ethnic profiling in the context of border controls. A coalition of civil society organisations and civilians has sued the Royal Marechaussee in order to end these discriminatory border control activities. We request the judge to draw a line.

Ethnic profiling by the Marechaussee

During border control operations, the Marechaussee select people on the basis of their appearance, colour of skin, or origin (ethnicity). Moreover, the Royal Marechaussee also applies risk profiles that incorporate ethnicity. For example: “men who walk fast, are well-dressed and who do not look Dutch”. This is a form of discrimination that violates human rights and Dutch law and is therefore prohibited.

Consequences of ethnic profiling

Ethnic profiling has a negative impact. It is detrimental to the people it affects, contributes to the stigmatisation of ethnic minorities, undermines confidence in the government and ultimately proves to be ineffective in the fight against crime.

Ethnic profiling repeatedly pointed out to the Dutch State

The collaborating organisations and civilians have made repeated efforts to draw the government’s attention to the harmful effects of ethnic profiling. For years, international human rights monitors have also been reminding the Dutch state of its duty to protect citizens from discrimination and to prevent ethnic profiling. These efforts failed to produce any substantial improvements.

Court case to halt discrimination

Despite all criticism and recommendations, the government maintains its position that ethnicity, in combination with other characteristics, may be part of general risk profiles and may be used in selection decisions. Therewith, the government allows that the Royal Marechaussee discriminates citizens. The Parliament is aware of this situation, but fails to act. For this reason, we feel obliged to take the case to court.

Our request to the judge

The coalition has initiated civil proceedings against the State. We claim that the Royal Marechausse is not allowed to use ethnicity in selection decisions and the making of risk profiles. Legally speaking: drawing up and applying risk profiles, which include ethnicity for the purpose of border controls, is in violation with the principle of non-discrimination.


22 September 2021: the Court has ruled that ethnicity may continue to be used to select people for stop-and-search practices at the border. We will appeal this decision.

15 June 2021: the Court hears our case against the Dutch State about ethnic profiling by the Royal Marechaussee. Read our pleadings here.

26 February 2020: the writ of summons has been served.

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Report discrimination by the Marechaussee

Do you suspect that you have been subjected to a border control because of your origin or colour of skin, or have you been treated in a discriminatory manner by an employee of the Royal Marechaussee? Share your experiences with an anti-discrimination agency. Here, complaints officers are ready to assist you. They lend an ear and offer support for complaints proceedings.

Go to, or call the free phone number 0800-1237.

Who are we?

The plaintiffs in this case are:

The proceedings are coordinated by the PILP-NJCM.

Further reading


22 September 2021: the Court has ruled that ethnicity may continue to be used to select people for stop-and-search practices at the border. We will appeal this decision.

The verdict in the case against the Dutch State about ethnic profiling by the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee is expected on September 22nd 2021.

On June 15th 2021, the Court heard our case. Read our pleadings here.

On February 26th 2020 the Dutch state was sued for ethnic profiling by the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee

On June 11, 2018, the PILP has filed a complaint on behalf of Mpanzu Bamenga regarding ethnic profiling by the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee.

In September 2016, the PILP conducted an investigation into several legal questions raised by inspections by the Royal Netherlands Marechaussee at Schiphol airport, and the possibility of monitoring, or filming, these inspections.

At the end of August 2015, the PILP examined the legal framework with regard to filming and photographing police officers in the Netherlands.

In May 2015, the PILP received research from S. Vromen, a student of the University of Utrecht, regarding ethnic profiling. See the research, entitled ‘Ethnic Profiling in the Netherlands and England and Wales: Compliance with International and European Standards’ here. See the related press release available as well.

On June 20, 2014, a brainstorm session was held regarding ethnic profiling. During that session, focus was on the issues that arise in the field and how they can be addressed.