Call to disclose crime suspects' ethnicity

2nd February 2005, Comments 0 comments

2 February 2005, AMSTERDAM — The ethnicity of crime suspects should be made public because the current policy of concealing their background is counterproductive, the Dutch anti-racism agency LBR has said.

2 February 2005

AMSTERDAM — The ethnicity of crime suspects should be made public because the current policy of concealing their background is counterproductive, the Dutch anti-racism agency LBR has said.

LBR director Hubert Fermina gave as example the 43-year-old woman who killed a suspected Moroccan bag snatcher in Amsterdam earlier this month. Many Moroccans accused the woman of killing the 19-year-old on purpose, claiming it was a hate crime.

Fermina, 56, of Antillean origin, said many people assumed the woman was native Dutch. But if it had been made public that the mother-of-two was of Surinamese ancestry, social tensions in the Amsterdam east district would have been reduced.

He also said Dutch media rarely reports the full names of crime suspects, usually identifying them with initials. But internationally — including the Netherlands Antilles, Morocco and Turkey — the first name and surnames of suspects are reported.

Deep social problems were avoided after the death of anti-immigration politician Pim Fortuyn in May 2002 by the disclosure that the arrested suspect, Volkert van der Graaf, was Dutch, Fermina said. The animal rights activist was later jailed on appeal for 18 years.

But the public prosecutor generally refuses to reveal the ethnicity of suspects due to Dutch privacy laws. An Amsterdam prosecution spokesperson told newspaper Algemeen Dagblad that only information such as age, sex and place of residence is provided to the media. "Ethnicity must not play a role," the spokesperson said.

The reticence to reveal ethnicity often leads to unproven speculations on internet forums. Rumours are currently circulating that the four suspects arrested for throwing a stone from a motorway viaduct — an incident which led to the death of a female motorist at Rijswijk earlier this month — were immigrants.

Fermina also said it is being suggested that the suspected arsonists at an Islamic primary school in Uden — one of the many tit-for-tat vandalism and arson attacks against mosques, churches and schools after the November murder of Theo van Gogh — were also of immigrant ancestry.

And despite urging for the disclosure of ethnicity, the LBR chief is not concerned about stigmatisation, claiming that distorted representation happens anyway.

He said preconceptions are given root by withholding information. "But I also hope that ethnicity is also reported in all positive incidents," Fermina said.
Politically, the Liberal VVD asserts that the ethnicity of suspects is irrelevant and that only the crime is important. But the Christian Democrat CDA and Labour PvdA are in favour of disclosing ethnicity if it can prevent tension.

Meanwhile, as the LBR gears up to celebrate is 20th anniversary next week, Fermina also spoke about integration and social tensions currently being witnessed in the Netherlands.

"I still see newcomers trying their best, but they often do not get the chance to integrate. We are coming to an 'us and them' situation. We need to tackle the hardening of society," he said.

"Some Moroccans, Antilleans and also Dutch people behave badly. Deal with these boys and don't focus on what goes wrong. Give attention to all the people who do find their way in Dutch society."

The LBR chief also said he hoped the word allochtoon (which means immigrant, but is often used in a negative sense) would disappear from the Dutch language.

"I have lived here 35 years and feel like I am Dutch. I don't want to be called allochtoon. The notion was thought of to develop policy, but it has now become a term of abuse," he said.

[Copyright Expatica News 2005]

Subject: Dutch news

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