Amnesty International, MPs call on PM to condemn pro-Piet violence

Amnesty International, the national ombudsman and the director of the Centre for Public Order and Security have condemned the way police and local mayors dealt with the violence targeted at this weekend's anti-Zwarte Piet demonstrations. In particular they have criticised the decisions to stop demonstrations early or to ban them altogether because of the threat to public safety, as happened in Nijmegen, The Hague, Leeuwarden and Den Helder. This is due to the 'wrong signal' sent out last year when police failed to ensure anti-Piet demonstrators could reach Dokkum to protest during the arrival of Sinterklaas, law professor and director of the public order institute Jan Brouwer, told the Volkskrant. 'Now supporters of Zwarte Piet think that threatening with violence helps,' Brouwer said. Amnesty International spokesman Emile Affolter and several politicians have now called on prime minister Mark Rutte to condemn the violence. 'Rutte should make a strong statement,' Affolter told broadcaster NOS. 'He remains silent but saying nothing is also a signal.' GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver has also called on Rutte to speak out. 'What I saw this weekend was quite incredible,' Klaver said. 'Peaceful demonstrators were being intimidated by hooligans, with racists slogans, had things thrown at them, were physically attacked in some cases,' he said. 'In some towns, demonstrators had to take shelter at police stations. In other places police could not guarantee the demonstrators' safety and banned the event altogether.' The prime minister should now speak out to make it clear what the Netherlands stands for, he said. 'It is time for a clear political signal against racism.' Eggs The worst violence was in Eindhoven, where an estimated 250 football hooligans and pro-Piet activists surrounded a small group of demonstrators on Saturday, throwing eggs at them and hurling racist abuse. Tijdens de intocht in Eindhoven werd Kick Out Zwarte Piet begroet met racistische spreekkoren, bekogeld met eieren en geïntimideerd. #kozp — VICE NL (@vicenl) November 18, 2018 In Tilburg on Sunday, police arrested 44 pro-Piet demonstrators to stop them attacking a small anti-Piet demonstration. Local mayor Theo Weterings said afterwards the police had intervened in a timely fashion to stop any trouble. The group demonstrating against Piet 'held a peaceful demonstration and kept to the rules we had agreed,' he said. 'It is a shame that another group wanted to disrupt the demonstration.' The main Sinterklaas procession in Zaandijk passed off without any trouble, although AD reporter Cyril Rosman spotted three men waving flags associated with the neo-nazi NVU. Sinterklaas en zijn Pieten passeren de demonstratie van de NVU. — cyrilrosman (@cyrilrosman) November 17, 2018 In Amsterdam on Sunday, 400,000 people turned out to welcome Sinterklaas, who was accompanied by 350 sooty-faced Piets. The Dutch capital has been phasing out the traditional blackface make-up over the past few years. Two opinion polls published this weekend both show that most Dutch people still support the traditional blackface Piets but that more people are amenable to change. In particular, young people are more likely to support a shift towards sooty faces, the EenVandaag and Maurice de Hond polls show.  More >

VVD: end ministerial reprieve for refugees

Coalition party VVD has called for ministers to be stripped of the power to give asylum-seekers facing deportation a last-minute reprieve. VVD MP Malik Azmani said the current system puts politicians under too much pressure to override the courts, especially in high-profile cases such as that of the Armenian foster children Howick and Lili. Junior justice minister Mark Harbers allowed the brother and sister, who have lived in the Netherlands for 10 years, to stay in September. They had gone into hiding to avoid being sent to rejoin their mother in Armenia. Azmani told the Telegraaf that judges should have the last word to avoid 'abritrary' decisions. 'There is no way of checking who is trying to exert influence,' he said. The MP stressed that he was not criticising the approach taken by his party colleague Harbers, who used his discretionary power 59 times during his first year in office. His predecessor, Klaas Dijkhoff, now parliamentary group leader of the VVD, issued 240 permits to rejected asylum seekers out of 780 cases that landed on his desk in two years. However, coalition partners the Christian Democrats rejected the idea of removing the minister's right to intervene. 'We shouldn't allow party politics to sully discretionary powers,' said justice spokeswoman Madeleine van Toorenburg. Prime minister Mark Rutte said in the wake of the Howick and Lili case that the cabinet has no plans to change the rules on amnesty for children, despite calls from opposition MPs, celebrities and aid organisations.  More >

Two arrests after ATM blown up in village

Two people have been arrested after an ATM machine was blown up outside a bank in a Zuid-Holland village. The blast in the early hours of Monday destroyed the cash dispenser at the Rabobank branch on Kennedyplein in Nieuwkoop, leaving banknotes lying in the road, Omroep West reported. Two suspects were seen fleeing the scene on a scooter. Police used a helicopter equipped with a heat trace to find the scooter, which had been parked inside a delivery van. The two men sitting in the van were arrested. Plofkraak @rabobank #Nieuwkoop. De afstortautomaat is opgeblazen — Nieuwkoop (@nieuwkoop) November 19, 2018 Local residents were ordered to leave their homes and spent several hours in a sports hall after the explosives disposal service (EOD) found a suspicious device in the bank machine.  More >

30% ruling campaigners switch to senate

International workers campaigning to have a full transition period built into government plans to cut the 30% ruling entitlement say they are now focusing on the senate to fight their corner. The government is planning to cut the number of years workers can claim the tax break from eight to five years. Originally, the government said it would not include a transition period but tax minister Menno Snel has now agreed to delay making the change for two years after pressure from industry and campaign groups. However, campaigners argue this does not go far enough, is extremely confusing and that 'a large majority of users are still losing significant income.' Last week, an amendment by the Socialist Party and GroenLinks, which would have brought in a transition period for current beneficiaries as well as a salary cap, failed to generate enough support in parliament. Senate Jessica Taylor Piotrowski of the campaign group United Expats of the Netherlands, told the organisation is now pinning its hopes on the senate. 'Snel said that introducing a salary cap, as proposed by the SP and GroenLinks would damage the business climate,' she said. 'But that is just what is happening now with the government breaking its word.' 'We are now evaluating what next steps to take,' she said. 'Our community is frustrated and we are discussing with them what to do.' Different treatment Legal advice prepared for the campaign group by law firm Stibbe states that the government's changes violate the principles of legal certainty and proportionality and that the implementation of transition period for some but not everyone means beneficiaries are also being treated differently. This, Stibbe argues is counter to the legal principles of good governance. Legal Campaigners now hope that the senate will take notice of the legal points raised in the Stibbe document. The senate has traditionally acted as a venue to check legislation on its quality rather than its political perspective In addition, the UNEL is considering taking legal action against the state, Piotrowski said. 'We are currently evaluating all options to determine whether legal action in court is a reasonable next step,' she said. 'In the coming days, we will continue our ongoing conversations with our legal team as well as with legal advisors to identify what is the most feasible and realistic solution.'  More >

Dutch may bid for 2027 women's World Cup

The Dutch government wants to host the women's World Cup football tournament in 2027 to build on the team's recent international successes. The Leeuwinnen became European champions on home turf last year and last week qualified for the 2019 finals tournament in France. D66 MP Antje Diertens told AD she will raise the subject in a debate in Parliament on Monday. Coalition partners the VVD, CDA and ChristenUnie have already indicated they support the plan, as has the Dutch football association KNVB. 'These women deserve full stadiums and the attention of the media. They are genuinely approachable role models for girls who play sport or want to take it up,' she said. 'What could be better than organising the greatest women's football tournament in the world?' The Netherlands' hopes were boosted in June when the United States, Canada and Mexico were chosen as hosts of the men's World Cup in 2026. The US was among the leading contenders for the women's tournament, but FIFA is unlikely to award two tournaments to the same country in successive years. A KNVB spokesman said: 'We saw at the 2017 Women's Euros what kind of impact a tournament like this can have, not just for sport at the top level but across the board. 'There is huge support for the Oranje Leeuwinnen, as we saw last week when they qualified again for the 2019 World Cup.'  More >

Skater Sven Kramer out with back trouble

Dutch speed skater Sven Kramer Dutch champion speed skater Sven Kramer has pulled out of all competition while he focuses on recovery from a back injury. Kramer, 32, dropped out of the team pursuit and the 5,000 metres at the World Cup event in Obihiro this weekend and has now returned to the Netherlands to work on his recovery. 'He is not happy about it, but he is in too much pain,' coach Sicco Janmaat told reporters on Sunday evening. Kramer said in a press statement that he hopes to be free of the complaint by the end of the year. 'Taking part in races will not help that process,' he said. 'I am now going to focus on the Dutch distance championships at the end of December.' Statement @SvenKramer86: — Team Jumbo Schaatsen (@TeamJumbo_ice) November 18, 2018 NOS analyst and former skating champion Erben Wennemars said Kramer must take the time to get fully fit. 'He has had back problems for years, and they keep coming back,' Wennemars said. 'He must now allow his body to recover.' Kramer, the current 5,000 metre Olympic champion, has nine world allround titles to his name but lost that title last year.  More >

Sunny summer boosts campsite stays

The sunny, dry summer boosted the number of foreign tourists holidaying on Dutch campsites by 18%, while the number of Dutch people on stay-at-home camping holidays rose 8%, the national statistics office CBS said on Monday. The coastal provinces of Zeeland and Noord-Holland were most popular with foreign tourists, while Gelderland was the top spot for domestic holidaymakers. 'It was such great weather it is hardly surprising that so many people went camping,' said CBS chief economist Peter Hein van Mulligen. Hotels and holiday parks were also more popular this summer, with visitor numbers up 5% and 4% respectively.   More >