Court orders Holland to SCRAP 9pm coronavirus curfew in victory for anti-lockdown campaigners who challenged crackdown after riots
- The curfew was the Netherlands’ first since the Nazi occupation in World War II
- It was overturned by a judge who said ministers had misused emergency powers
- The measure sparked several nights of violence in Dutch cities after it came in
A Dutch court today ordered the government to lift a Covid curfew that sparked the Netherlands’ worst rioting for decades – saying authorities had misused emergency powers meant for more perilous crises such as a dyke breach.
The 9pm curfew was the first to be imposed in the Netherlands since the Nazi occupation in World War II, sparking several consecutive nights of violence in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and other cities.
But it has now been overturned by a judge in The Hague who said the curfew ‘must be lifted immediately’, in a victory for anti-lockdown campaigners who had challenged the government’s order.
Ministers had relied on emergency powers which can be used when there is no time for parliament to meet, for example if low-lying Holland’s flood defences are about to be overwhelmed – but the virus did not bring this level of urgency, the judge said.
Protesters clash with Dutch police in Eindhoven last month during the violence which followed the introduction of a curfew in the Netherlands
A cycling Dutch police officer rides past a burning rubbish bin after youths gathered on the streets of The Hague during the late-January riots
Holland is one of numerous countries to have imposed curfews, along with France which has resisted imposing a third lockdown over the winter.
France’s 6pm curfew, in place since December 15, has helped to stabilise infections but they are not falling sharply as they are in Britain.
In Holland, the curfew was added to the raft of measures after restrictions were ratcheted up in the final months of 202 amid unprecedented numbers of cases.
The late-January riots led to hundreds of people being arrested and protesters being pursued by cycling Dutch police during outbreaks of violence in several cities.
Further emergency powers were put in place after rowdy protesters raged against the lockdown in Amsterdam, Rotterdam and elsewhere.
On the worst night of rioting on January 25, more than 180 people were arrested for burning vehicles, stone throwing and widespread looting.
In Amsterdam, groups of youths threw fireworks, broke shop windows and attacked a police truck, but were eventually broken up by a massive police presence.
A hospital in Rotterdam had warned visitors of patients to stay away, after rioters tried to attack hospitals in various cities.
Supermarkets in the port city were emptied, while bins and vehicles were set ablaze and several police officers were injured.
Police enforce the curfew in Amsterdam after it was imposed by the Dutch government to slow the contagion of the feared new strains of the coronavirus
Anti-lockdown campaigners had held protests such as this one in Amsterdam – and have now succeeded in having the curfew overturned
Schools and non-essential shops across the Netherlands have been shut since mid-December, after bars and restaurants were closed two months earlier.
But even once cases started falling in January, Dutch PM Mark Rutte said the ‘terrible measure’ of a curfew was needed to rein in more contagious variants of the virus.
While the parties in Rutte’s caretaker government backed the measure, opposition figures raged that the curfew would turn the country into a ‘police state’.
The legal challenge was brought by a campaign group called Virus Truth which said the government had wrongly used emergency powers.
A district court judge in The Hague agreed with them today, saying the 9pm to 4.30am curfew was a ‘far-reaching violation of freedom of movement and privacy’.
The judge said the fact that the curfew was discussed ahead of its imposition meant that the government had enough warning to go through the proper process.
Demonstrators are sprayed by water cannon on Amsterdam’s Museumplein during protests
‘The curfew is based on a law for emergency situations, where there is no time for debate with parliament’, the court said.
‘There was no such pressing need in this case. Far-reaching measures such as these need to be based on proper laws.
‘Therefore, the use of this law to impose curfew is not legitimate,’ it concluded.
The government can challenge the decision but any appeal would not suspend the judge’s order, a spokesman for the court was quoted as telling the ANP news agency.
Ministers had last week extended the curfew until at least March 2.
A spokeswoman for the Dutch justice ministry said it would need to study the ruling and declined further comment.
Police trade union NPB said the verdict raised questions, including over the validity of the almost 15,000 fines handed out to people who had flouted the curfew.
‘But we abide by court rulings’, NPB chairman Jan Struijs told Dutch media. ‘We can’t ignore it.’
The total number of confirmed infections since the start of the pandemic surpassed one million last week, with almost 15,000 registered COVID-19 deaths
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