Foreign human rights activists who work in the Netherlands or live as refugees are regularly victims of threats, intimidation or even violence. Each time there are clear indications that these incidents are organized by the country of origin, with the aim of preventing the human rights activist living in the Netherlands from talking about the human rights situation in the country of origin. This is one of the conclusions from the report “Threats to Human Rights Defenders in the Netherlands” that The Hague Peace Projects published on 17 February 2020.
The report presents the experiences of fifteen human rights defenders who are currently in the Netherlands. Their stories range from online death threats through social media and the hacking of telephones to more extreme incidents such as following a Rwandan activist on the street, a car driving deliberately into a Congolese activist and the sabotage of a Palestinian activist’s car who was in the middle of a lawsuit against Israeli generals.
Just two weeks ago, NOS reported2 that one of these activists, Waqass Goraya, a well-known blogger from Pakistan, was attacked on the street. He was beaten in front of his home by an unknown man, while a second man filmed the incident. Afterwards they shouted that they would kill him next time. Prior to this escalation, Waqass had already told the researchers that he was regularly threatened online and reported each of these incidents to the police.
Some Uyghur activists say that they are threatened over the phone directly from China. In their case it is not their own lives that are at stake, but that of their family members in China. And indeed, after they refused to give in to the threats by the secret service, their children, parents, brothers and/or sisters disappeared soon after. These activists live in constant stress and fear of what may have happened to their family in their home country.
All activists make it clear that the threats and intimidation have a much wider negative effect than just their own physical and mental well-being and that of their immediate family. They emphasize that these incidents create fear within the entire migrant community of which they are a part. The real effect of threats and violence, organized from countries with oppressive regimes, is that people in the Netherlands do not feel free to express any criticism about their country of origin.
The result of this research demonstrates a serious problem in The Netherlands. Immediate action is necessary. The Hague Peace Projects calling upon the Dutch Government to organize a focal point at one of the ministries, where human rights activists who are threatened could turn to for help and advice. One central focal point could be the Dutch government to keep an eye on foreign threats and to take rapid action against these and possible reprimand the country of origin. The focal point could also help local police services file reports and launch investigations into these kinds of threats because it has been found that there are still shortcomings in that regard.
For more information about the research you can contact Jakob de Jonge: firstname.lastname@example.org