The NJCM, together with its strategic litigation department (PILP-NJCM), has written an Amicus Curiae/opinion letter (in Dutch) to support procedures on area bans during and after demonstrations.
The NJCM argues that applying area bans (too lightly) puts pressure on the fundamental rights to protest and freedom of expression.
An ‘order to behave’ in the form of an area ban (see article 509hh Dutch Code of Criminal Procedure) means that a person is not allowed to be in a certain place during a certain period of time. In such a case, a citizen is thus (also) denied the possibility of peacefully expressing his or her opinion, alone or with others, in that place.
As a result of a peaceful demonstration (against the policy concerning the Corona measures) on March 28, 2021, no less than 305 participants were given such an area ban by the public prosecutor. The same applies to a group of peaceful protesters who demonstrated in The Hague on October 12, 2020 (against climate change).
According to the NJCM, the deployment of this repressive measure should not take place in response to behaviors that are not punishable in the context of a (predominantly) peaceful protest or that concern only minor infractions. Moreover, the law requires that when this means is deployed, a thorough individual investigation is conducted to assess whether the requirements set in article 509hh Sv are met.
From a human rights perspective, the NJCM is also seriously concerned about the so-called ‘chilling effect’ of such area bans. In other words: the fact that the public prosecutor imposes an order to behave on a protester who is exercising his or her fundamental right to protest may lead other citizens to feel restricted in exercising their fundamental right to protest in the future.
The PILP-NJCM hopes that the courts will review the imposed area bans very critically and will also take the right to protest and the freedom of expression fully into account in their judgment.