Friday, January 27, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Anti-monarchy activists argue for removal of Dutch king from legal system 

Judges hearing the case sat underneath a portrait of King Willem-Alexander, one of many symbolic gestures the group Republiek takes issue with.

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CN) — An anti-monarchy organization told judges in The Hague on Wednesday that the role the Dutch king has in the country’s judicial system violates the European Convention on Human Rights. 

Republiek, an activist group that wants to abolish the Dutch monarchy, is suing the Dutch state and King Willem-Alexander to eliminate any official role for the monarch in the legal system, including swearing in judges and the display of the king’s portrait in courtrooms. 

While the hearing was ongoing before The Hague District Court, a few miles away at his Noordeinde Palace, the king spent his morning swearing in two new judges to the Dutch Supreme Court. 

The group argued that the king’s unique role in Dutch governance violates Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, a 1953 treaty protecting the political and civil rights of Europeans, which guarantees fair trial rights. 

“It is not normal how often the king is mentioned in Dutch law,” Republiek’s lawyer Ewout Jansen told reporters at a press conference following the hearing. 

The group points to 18 procedural and symbolic ways the king participates in the Dutch judiciary, including having his signature on any law passed in the country. The Dutch government argues this is merely a symbolic gesture but Republiek pointed to how the king asked for a delay in signing a law to consider the implications of emergency measures during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“He could have said no,” Jansen said. 

King Willem-Alexander himself did not appear in the courtroom, which Republiek said was a pity. It’s rare for the subject of a complaint to not appear in court in the Netherlands but the king is not obliged to, another royal benefit. Instead, he was defended by his personal lawyer Arnold Croiset van Uchelen while Dutch state was represented by the country’s attorney general, Reimer Veldhuis.

“There is no immunity for the king,” Veldhuis told the three-judge panel, who were seated beneath a portrait of King Willem-Alexander in full regale, which is displayed in every courtroom in the country. 

In 2020, Republiek announced it would bring the lawsuit and, within a week, raised 35,000 euros ($37,000) via a crowdfunding campaign to finance the proceedings.

“You see more people are critical of the royal house and fewer people support the monarchy,” the group’s chairperson Floris Müller said during the press conference. 

The Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights, which oversees legal enforcement of the convention, has issued several rulings in recent years stressing the importance of separation of powers within government, mostly in response to an ongoing rule of law crisis in Poland and Hungary. Jansen argued in court that the same principle applies whether the influence on the judicial system is from politicians or a monarch. 

If the group succeeds, Republiek’s lawsuit would not strip the king of his title or do away with the royal family, although the group does campaign for an end to the monarchy.

“We see the legal system as the most important avenue,” Jansen said. 

The court expects to issue a ruling in March. 

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.

Loading
Loading...