Thursday 24 September 2020

Dutch MPs want to scrap law banning insults to a ‘friendly head of state’

A gavel in a courtroom.

Photo: Depositphotos

MPs from the two Dutch liberal parties VVD and D66 have called on the government to scrap a law making it a criminal offence to insult a ‘friendly’ head of state, broadcaster Nos reported at the weekend.

Similar legislation in Germany is being used by Turkey to prosecute Jan Böhmermann, a comedian who read out an offensive poem about the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on television.

‘Foreign leaders who are easily offended should not be able to go to court to try to undermine our constitution,’ VVD MP Joost Taverne is quoted as saying. According to Nos, the Socialists, GroenLinks and the anti-Islam PVV also back scrapping the law, meaning there would be majority support if the issue came to a vote.

MPs from the ruling Labour party, however, say they would ‘rather spend time on other issues,’ justice spokesman Jeroen Recourt is quoted as saying.

‘Every foreigner, head of state or not, who feels he has been insulted by someone in the Netherlands can make a complaint here,’ he said.

‘It is up to the public prosecution department whether or not to take it further. That is different in Germany, where the chancellor has to give permission for the case to continue. The German situation could never happen here.’

200 guilder fine

According to the Volkskrant, however, the Labour party also supports abolishing the law.

The last time the law was used in the Netherlands dates back to 1968 when writer Geert Mak, who then worked on a student newspaper, was fined 200 guilders for comparing US president Lyndon Johnson to a war criminal, broadcaster Nos says.

Meanwhile Dutch comedian Hans Teeuwen appeared on RTL news defending Jan Böhmermann and issuing his own tirade of sexual allegations against Erdogan.

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