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2016 2016-02-04T20:23:30+0300 2016-02-18T15:23:48+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”

During a considerable period of its existence the Netherlands were  under the influence of Spain, where the death penalty was widely used. However, in the 16th century the Dutch began the fight for independence, and in 1549 launched the creation of the Dutch Republic, which lasted almost until the occupation of the territory by the French troops in 1895.

Large-scale persecution of homosexuals was registered during the existence of the Dutch Republic, who used to be punished with death, starting from Utrecht sodomy trials in 1730. That year the state survived a large epidemics of diseases of the cattle, which was preceded by a flood and an earthquake. All these events were interpreted as manifestations of the God's wrath, the more that the ruins of the nave of the Dome Church served as a place for meetings of homosexuals. As a result, the authorities launched an investigation, several men were arrested and interrogated, analogical meeting points were discovered all over the country and the persecution began. Suspicion also fell on several high-ranking officials, but they escaped. Only in Utrecht there were convicted about 40 men, 18 of whom were hanged. It was also allowed to drown homosexuals in a barrel, after which their remnants were burned and thrown into the sea. Some heterosexual men also became victims of these events, as the situation was used to persecute political enemies.

In general, in the Middle Ages the death penalty was applied on an extensive list of crimes –robbery, arson, murder and rape. Depending on the personality of the convict and his state, the execution could be carried out in various ways. Since the beginning of the French occupation, the French Code of Criminal acts started acting on the territory of the Netherlands, according to which the death penalty could be carried out only through the guillotine. A few years after gaining independence (1815), the Kingdom of the Netherlands established that the death penalty could be carried out by beheading. However, in practice it was exercised through hanging. All executions were public, but their number was decreasing, as the public opinion did not approve of this "barbaric" punishment and the king increasingly pardoned criminals.

The last execution for a criminal offense has occurred on October 31, 1860 – Johannes Nathan was hanged for the murder of his mother. In 1870 the Minister of Justice van Lilaar initiated the removal of the death penalty from the criminal law of the Netherlands as "a cruel and uncivilized form of punishment”. After seven days of debate in the lower and upper houses of the parliament there was adopted an amendment to the Criminal Code according to which the death penalty was commuted to life imprisonment.

Six years later, a debate for restoring the death penalty flared up in the Parliament – the Dutch society was outraged at the life sentence to Hendrik Jut, who committed a double murder. His beloved was pregnant, they had no money and he offered her to rob a rich widow, whom she was serving. The murder of the widow and her maid took place in the Hague on the Christmas Eve in 1892 and caused a big scandal (murders were a rarity at the time). Two people were arrested on suspicion (one of them tried to hang himself in the prison cell), but were then released by the police due to lack of evidence. The culprits were arrested after 2.5 years, the evidence was indisputable. Jut's accomplice was sentenced to 12 years in prison, while Jut was transferred to a more secure prison due to the threat of lynching, and died there two years after, at the age of 26. The public outrage over the case was enormous – all newspapers presented a detailed coverage of the court hearings, the brochures about this story sold out in large circulations. Even the street, where the murder had been committed, was renamed, because it's name became strongly associated with the crime (the name was returned only in 1996). At the fairs, citizens were proposed an attraction with a copy of Hendrik's head which they could beat with a sledgehammer, thereby expressing dissent with the too lenient punishment for him. However, MPs demonstrated a political will and the death penalty wasn't returned to the general criminal law of the Netherlands.

However, it remained in the Military Justice. In May 1940, the Dutch authorities sentenced and executed Sergeant Chris Meyer and two other soldiers for desertion. During the occupation, the death penalty was restored and used on a large scale without compliance to the processes and customs of war. In the period after World War II, the Dutch government decided to use the death penalty against traitors and collaborators. Specially created courts sentenced to death 154 people, 39 of whom were executed (most sentences were commuted to life imprisonment on appeal). The last executions were held on March 21, 1952 and concerned a German national, Artur Albrecht, and a Dutch man, Andries Pieters, both of whom were convicted of torturing and killing peaceful population of the Netherlands.

Finally, in 1983 the Constitution of the Netherlands was amended with Article 114, which prohibits the death penalty for crimes committed both in peacetime and wartime. In 2003, the Netherlands signed Protocol 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which also stipulates that the death penalty should be abolished in all circumstances.

Today, the Netherlands carries out a consistent policy against the use of the death penalty around the world – for example, in the bilateral agreement with the US on extradition, it is stipulated that the Netherlands may demand that the death penalty not be used against an offender who is passed to the United States and can refuse from the extradition if the US is unable to give such a guarantee.

To date, the opinion of the Dutch society on the death penalty is an example of unwavering consistency. In 2012, a study on the attitude to the death penalty was carried out in the Netherlands – the majority of citizens believe that there is no situation that would make the Dutch society approve the death penalty. In 2006, widespread public discussion was provoked by the comment of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands on the application of the death penalty against Saddam Hussein. He said that he "understands the decision and its implementation by the Government of Iraq". Later on, he had to justify himself and emphasize that he was not an adherent of the death penalty in all circumstances.

In August 2015, the largest Dutch pension fund, which was an investor of Mylan pharmaceutical company, announced its withdrawal from the shareholders. The reason for the conflict was the information that the company's products were bought by the US government for executing the death penalty through lethal injections. The final proof was an answer from the State of Virginia and the refusal of the company to correct its policy. Before that, there were other conflicts in the Netherlands, and under the public pressure pharmaceutical companies had to guarantee that their products wouldn't be used for the application of the death penalty in any country of the world.

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