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Dutch court rejects call to eliminate role of king in judiciary

An organization opposed to the royal family argues the existence of a king violates fair trial rights guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights.

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (CN) — A court in The Hague has dismissed a lawsuit that claimed the Dutch judicial system is unfair because of the country’s king, calling the complaint “short-sighted.”

In a ruling only available in Dutch, The Hague District Court sided Wednesday with the Netherlands government and King Willem-Alexander in a lawsuit brought by Republiek, a republican advocacy group that argues the official role of the monarch in the legal system violates fair trial guarantees. 

The Dutch royal family is a largely symbolic institution but the monarchy does swear in judges and signs all laws passed in the country. All of the nation’s courtrooms display the king’s portrait. 

During a hearing in December, Republiek pointed to 18 ways the king participates in the Dutch judiciary. The group claims this involvement violates the European Convention on Human Rights, a 1953 treaty protecting the political and civil rights of Europeans, and specifically Article 6, which guarantees fair trial rights. 

The Hague judges, however, agreed with the government that these activities are symbolic gestures and do not demonstrate any loyalty to the king.

“It therefore requires more than the existence of those customs and traditions to assume that doubts about the independence of the court are objectively justified in all cases in which the King is a party,” the three-judge panel wrote in the ruling, which also referred to the lawsuit as "short-sighted."

The court also found that Republiek had not met the criteria for a class action case. The group cited a number of rulings in which the king was a party but failed to demonstrate that its interests had been infringed. 

Support for the Dutch monarchy has waned in recent years. Polling data from 2022 shows that 47% of the country had confidence in King Willem-Alexander, down 10% from the year before. 

Republiek claims to have 4,000 members. In 2020, the organization raised 35,000 euros ($37,000) via a crowdfunding campaign to finance the legal proceedings. 

The ruling comes six weeks before one of the Netherlands' largest national holidays, King’s Day, which commemorates the monarch’s birthday. On April 27, thousands across the country will don orange clothing - the royal family is known as the House of Orange - and take to the streets to celebrate. 

In a demonstration against the holiday, members of Republiek plan to hold anti-monarchy signs along the parade route King Willem-Alexander and his wife, Queen Máxima, will take through the city of Rotterdam. 

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