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MPs back obligatory ID in Holland

9 December 2003

AMSTERDAM — As MPs on Monday backed legislation aimed at making teenagers carry identification, Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner played a game of words by explaining that people will only be prosecuted for failing to show ID.

The minister said in the Lower House of Parliament, Tweede Kamer, that the public would be obliged to show ID upon demand by the police, but would not be obliged to carry identification, news agency ANP reported.

Police will only be permitted to ask for ID when doing so is “reasonably” related to tasks such as tracking down people, offering public assistance or maintaining public order. This means that police cannot ask for ID without any reason and the chance that people will be required to show ID will remain small.

This is different from the random stop and search laws operating in the Netherlands, which allows police to search people for weapons in an identified risk area without prior suspicion. Such a law is designed to reduce the crime rate, but has been criticised as an attack on privacy.

Meanwhile, the ID legislation will obligate everyone from the age of 14 to carry identification while on the street or in other public areas, such as shopping malls. Current legislation only requires people from the age of 18 to carry ID while at work, in the car or on public transport, NOS reported.

The controversial new legislation has been sharply criticised. Left-wing opposition parties in the Lower House are concerned that the ID obligation will become discriminatory and have demanded the possibility be held open for people to submit complaints if they feel they were unjustly asked to produce ID.

Human rights group Privacy International has also called the age requirement of 14 “irresponsible”. But governing coalition partners the Christian Democrat CDA and Liberal VVD initially proposed forcing children from the age of 12 to carry ID.

Despite the criticism, CDA Minister Donner remained steadfast. The law is designed to assist police crackdown on criminality and a public information campaign will be conducted next year before the proposal becomes law on 1 January 2005.

But Donner said breaching the obligation to carry ID would not be prosecutable in itself. The subtle difference was consciously made because it is not the intention for police to continually investigate whether people are carrying ID because that would automatically make someone a suspect.

But in reality, the minister admitted the obligation to show ID when asked by police cannot be separated from an obligation to carry ID. The obligation to prove identity rested with the citizen.

Failing to show a passport, ID card or drivers licence will be made a prosecutable offence, carrying a maximum fine of EUR 2,250. Fines of about EUR 70, however, are expected to be imposed.

Donner has rejected calls from opposition parties Labour PvdA and the Socialist Party to reduce the fine, claiming that in reality, the maximum fine will in general not be imposed.

[Copyright Expatica News 2003]

Subject: Dutch news