Sunday 08 December 2019

An abuse of freedom?

The court decision to ban a pro-paedophile foundation is nothing to do with freedom of speech, writes Robin Pascoe.

Last week, the Dutch supreme court ordered the disbanding of a foundation called Stichting Martijn – set up in 1982 to promote and campaign for sexual relations between adults and children.

In its ruling the court basically said that the protection of children was more important than the right to freedom of expression and freedom of association.

The reaction in the Dutch media has been sharply divided. On the one hand, the hang-them-all voices have been celebrating and the religious parties have politely welcomed the decision as a victory for children.  

On the other hand, an awful lot of lawyers, intellectuals and writers have done an awful lot of pontificating about what a bad thing the ban is, that it sets a precendent and is the start of a slippery slope to the end of freedom of speech.

Newspapers

Freedom of speech is a basic human right and should be protected at all costs. But banning the Martijn Foundation is nothing to do with free speech. No-one is stopping paedophiles from speaking or writing to newspapers or campaigning to be accepted.

All that has happened is a foundation has been disbanded because it is campaigning for the acceptance of sex between children and adults  – something which is terribly damaging to the children involved, however the members of Martijn like to pretend it is harmless and a beautiful thing.

Nor is the ban unique. After all, the ultra-right wing CP’86 was banned in 1998 for promoting racism and violence against immigrants.

And as for precedent-setting – have there been calls for the PVV, for example, to be banned? Not that I can recall.

Liberal idea

Let us drop the oh-so-liberal idea that the Martijn foundation is an innocent support group for men who would like to have sex with 15-year-olds.

Some of the leading figures in the Martijn foundation have convictions for child porn. In 2011, its chairman was jailed for 2.5 years for possessing 150,000 photographs and 7,500 films – some of them featuring very young children.

Several other (former) board members have convictions for child sex crimes.

Babies

The partner of Robert Mikelsons, the man found guilty of abusing dozens of very young children at Amsterdam daycare centres, was a member of Martijn. Richard van Olffen was jailed for six years for complicity in his partner’s horrible crimes.

The head of the Catholic Salesian order in the Netherlands was sacked because of positive comments he made about paedophilia while defending another Salesian priest with criminal convictions for exposing himself to children.

That priest was a member of the board at Martijn, a fact known to the church authorities. And the Salesian order was at the heart of the Dutch Catholich church sex abuse scandal.

Parents

The campaign to have the foundation banned was started by the parents of a three-year-old child abused by the paedophile next door. According to the Dutch press, that paedophile had learned the tricks on how to pick up children via the Martijn foundation.

The public prosecution department said at the time it could do nothing. The parents started a civil case. Now, four years on, they have won their fight to have the group banned.

All the court has done is assert the rights of children to state protection in the face of an organisation campaigning to have sex with children legalised.

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