Committee against Torture: Concerns about the Netherlands

June 24, 2013

At its latest session (6-31 May 2013) the Committee against Torture (CAT) discussed the implementation of the UN Convention against Torture by the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Its concluding observations can now be downloaded. 

According to the Johannes Wier Foundation, an IFHHRO member, the CAT report makes two important statements with regards to health care in the Netherlands:

Medical examination asylum seekers

The first is about the medical examination that routinely takes place at the beginning of an asylum procedure. This examination is solely focused at investigating whether the asylum applicant can be heard by the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) and not at identifying whether the person has any needs for support or treatment for the consequences of torture or other inhuman treatment. The Committee recommends to use the Istanbul Protocol to timely identify applicants with special needs and to document incidents of torture and other inhuman treatment, with a view to provide rehabilitation to the victims. 

Compulsory admissions to mental health care

Second, the CAT expresses its concern about the high number of people who are compulsory admitted to mental health clinics in the country for a long period of time. This concern also relates to the use of seclusion and forced medication, and the lack of attention within mental health policies to find alternatives. The CAT calls on the Netherlands to reduce the number of compulsory admissions and make sure that constraints and separations be used as a last resort only, for the shortest possible time and under strict medical supervision. It also calls on the government to independently investigate incidents in which the excessive use of restrictive measures has led to injuries and/or death of admitted patients.

Detention of undocumented migrants

In its report, the Committee also expresses its concerns about the detention of illegal aliens. In the Netherlands, undocumented migrants and failed asylum seekers who are held in custody before expulsion often live in prison conditions worse than those in which convicted criminals live – even though being undocumented is not a crime in the Netherlands. According to the CAT, the Dutch government should use alternatives to detention of illegal immigrants and also prevent the detention of underage migrants.

The Committee has based its observations and recommendations on the combined fifth and sixth periodic reports of the Netherlands, dialogues with the Dutch government. It also used information obtained from the new Dutch Board for the Protection of Human Rights and Dutch NGOs through a so-called shadow report, to which the Johannes Wier Foundation also contributed.

Source: (Dutch only)

Concluding Observations – Committee against Torture (pdf)