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Dutch compulsory identification above 14 years

8 October, 2003

Last week in the Netherlands a legal proposal became public 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. 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.

Dutch people currently only have partial identification requirements, for example when opening a bank account or at the workplace. Like the Dutch Data Protection Authority before, the Council of State (an advisory body to the government) is very critical in her evaluation of the legal proposal to extend the requirement to everybody always. The proposal does not substantiate why mandatory ID is necessary, on what reasons the age of 14 is chosen and why such an extremely large number of officials should be granted this power.

"To justify introducing such a general obligation that limits the right to privacy, there must be well-founded reasons. An important element is the effect that the regulation may be expected to have on the suppression of crime and the improvement of law enforcement. The explanatory memorandum hardly contains any (empirical) material about that."

The Minister of Justice Piet Hein Donner admits the lack of empirical substantiation, but sees no possibility nor necessity to create a prognosis of the expected effects of the regulation. In defence, the minister refers to the fact that none of the neighbouring countries with compulsory identification have made any evaluations. Besides, the complaints about discrimination in France and Belgium, incidental according to the Minister, have not yet lead to a procedure for the European Court of Human Rights.

It is unknown when the legal affairs committee of the Lower House will discuss the proposal.



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