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Dutch Declaration excludes minorities from minority rights Convention

10 March 2005

A Dutch government ‘Declaration’ has excluded minorities from protection under the provisions of a Convention expressly designed to protect their rights. The Declaration aims to restrict the application of the Council of Europe’s (CoE) Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) only to the Frisian minority and should be rejected as invalid, states Minority Rights Group International (MRG). According to the rights group, the most discriminated against groups in the Netherlands, including the Roma, will be excluded from the protection of the Convention as applied by the Netherlands.

‘It is not for the state to declare who is and is not a minority’, stated MRG’s Head of International Advocacy, Clive Baldwin. ‘All national ethnic, religious or linguistic communities should enjoy rights under the FCNM, the clear objective of which is to be inclusive of minorities existing within the national territory’.

The Dutch concept of ‘national minorities’ is limited only to Frisians and fails to accept Roma or Sinti groups, and others including Germans, Moluccans, Moroccans, Surinamese and Turks, despite the fact that many have long histories within Dutch territory. According to MRG, which has been lobbying for Europe-wide ratification of the FCNM, all minority communities should benefit and be able to make claims on the government based on the FCNM provisions. The Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (Article 19) does not permit reservations to be incompatible with the object and purpose of a treaty, a provision which MRG believes also renders the Dutch Declaration invalid.

Clive Baldwin stated: ‘Limitations such as this set a poor example for other states to follow, especially given the normal high standing of the Netherlands on human rights’.

The Dutch Declaration renders the Netherlands amongst the weakest, in terms of minority rights, of 36 states to have ratified the Convention. Denmark, Germany and Estonia, have previously ratified the FCNM with Declarations limiting the potential beneficiaries of the Convention, resulting in a comment from the FCNM Advisory Committee that ‘the implementation of the Framework Convention should not be a source of arbitrary or unjustified distinctions’.

Minority Rights Group International calls on the government of the Netherlands to revue and amend its ratification of the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities to include all national, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities within its territory.

Notes for editors

  • The Declaration contained in a Note verbale from the Permanent Representation of the Netherlands deposited with the instrument of acceptance, on 16 February 2005 states that: The Kingdom of the Netherlands will apply the Framework Convention to the Frisians.