Dutch Lower House accepts compulsory identification

By EDRi · December 18, 2003

On 16 December the Dutch Lower House accepted a legal proposal to introduce compulsory identification for all persons from the age of fourteen. People unable to immediately show a valid passport, drivers license or (cheaper) identity-card risk a fine with a maximum of 2.250 Euro. Refusal will constitute a criminal offence. Every police-officer including military police, any extra-ordinary law enforcement agent and any police related supervisor/watcher may ask for proof of identity. According to the explanatory statement the police must have a reasonable cause related to her task to ask for ID, but there is no need for an actual suspicion of an offence.

In spite of criticism from the Dutch Data Protection Authority, the Association for the Jurisdiction, the Council of State (an advisory body to the government) and strong-worded last minute open letter from EDRI-member Privacy International, the Minister of Justice found a large parliamentary majority for his proposal, of conservatives, liberals, social democrats and Christian democrats.

Though formally there is only an obligation to show ID when asked, in practice carrying identification will be compulsory, given the examples of minister Piet Hein Donner. He mentioned the need to be able to demand ID from any (involuntary) witness to an accident, besides the need to be able to identify people that cycle on the pavement or allow their dogs to relieve themselves there.

Especially the ‘eye-witness’ argument offends a core principle of the rule of law: that citizens should have notice of the circumstances in which the State may conduct surveillance, so that they can regulate their behaviour to avoid unwanted intrusions.

In its open letter to all Members of Parliament, Privacy International announced that it would take legal steps and challenge this legislation in court, for violating the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child.

Donner seems confident that the Senate will accept the proposal just as hastily as the Lower House, planning to introduce the new law by the 1st of January 2005.

Open letter Privacy International (06.12.2003)