Court slams preventative arrest of youths gathering in public

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In the first ruling of its kind in the Netherlands, a court in the city of Utrecht declared as unconstitutional the arrest of youths simply for gathering together in public.

14 February 2008

AMSTERDAM - In the first ruling of its kind in the Netherlands, a court in the city of Utrecht declared as unconstitutional the arrest of youths simply for gathering together in public.

According to the court, arresting people gathering in public is only legal if they threaten public security and order.

Speaking to Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa, a spokesman of the public prosecutor, the city of Utrecht and the police said the ruling will be appealed.

On 15 October, Utrecht authorities implemented a ban on assembly for part of the Kanaleneiland neighbourhood in the western part of the city. Under the prohibition, gathering in public in groups of more than four people was not allowed.

The ruling was implemented to curb a dramatic rise of crime in the neighbourhood.

The area is primarily populated by Moroccan immigrants from the lower socio-economic classes. The police say some 80 youths, mostly of Moroccan descent, are responsible for the crime.

Days after the ban was imposed, 11 youths were arrested for violating it.

Four youths accepted work duty or agreed to a pay a fine of EUR 240. The seven remaining youths, aged 15 to 19, demanded a court ruling on the legitimacy of their arrest.

The court ruled that gathering in public does not constitute a violation of the prohibition of assembly unless the group threatens public security.

In recent years, several Dutch cities have implemented so-called prohibitions of assembly as a preventative measure to curb crime and increase public security.

Dutch nationals hardly question the legitimacy of the preventative measure that effectively abolishes a fundamental civil right of a democratic and constitutional state.

The Utrecht court was the first to rule on the legitimacy of the assembly ban.

Most such bans in Dutch cities target youths. However in Rotterdam, even mothers and children on playgrounds have been fined for violating the prohibition.

[Copyright dpa 2008]

Subject: Dutch news

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