Defending the Constitution and Human Rights in the Netherlands

Berlin senior of counsel Lokke Moerel was one of five constitutional law experts tapped to review the constitutionality of the Netherlands’ major political parties’ election platforms ahead of its closely-watched general election on March 15.

Overall, 28 parties participated in the 2017 election to elect all 150 members of the House of Representatives, the Netherlands’ lower house of Parliament. Commissioned by the Dutch Bar Association, the committee reviewed the platforms of the 13 parties holding two or more seats in the House and issued a report on its findings.

Each platform was reviewed against the backdrop of three core constitutional tenets:

  1. The government itself is bound by the applicable law and court rulings. Its policy towards the citizens should be predictable and controllable.
  2. The fundamental rights and freedoms of all citizens are respected.
  3. Everyone should have an effective access to an impartial and independent court.

Based on its evaluation of the platforms, the committee issued green, orange, or red cards. A green card indicates that the party’s platform may improve the rule of law; an orange card indicates the platform may potentially weaken the rule of law; and a red card indicates that the party’s platform is squarely in conflict with the rule of law. In its report, the committee issued red cards to five of the 13 reviewed parties, including the Netherlands’ leading right-wing party, VVD, for proposals found to be inconsistent with minimum constitutional requirements.

After receiving a red card for a particularly controversial proposal, under which human rights from treaties and decisions of international organizations would no longer have direct effect in the Netherlands and would no longer be subject to review by the European Court of Justice, VVD dropped the proposal in a move human rights organizations hailed as a major victory. The Netherlands’ far right party, PVV, received the most red and orange cards, renewing a debate about the viability of its proposals.

The Dutch election received widespread attention as the biggest European election post-Brexit. Following the press conference that coincided with the release of the committee report, Lokke was interviewed extensively by Dutch television, radio and print news outlets, and the report was a trending topic on Twitter for several days after its release.

Lokke Moerel joins the press conference following the release of the committee report.