Dutch Ombudsman: arrest of protesters against "Zwarte Piet" in violation of human rights

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Amsterdam, 17 October 2014 - In his report of 15 October 2014, the Dutch National Ombudsman has ruled that the arrest of artists Quinsy Gario and Jerry Afriyie at the annual public arrival ceremony of “Sinterklaas” in 2011 in Dordrecht was unlawful, disproportionately violent and in violation of their human rights.

Lawyer Tomasz Kodrzycki filed a complaint with the National Ombudsman about the arrest of Gario and Afriyie as a result of wearing T-shirts that read "Zwarte Piet is Racisme" (Black Pete is Racism) at the national public event of Sinterklaas' arrival in Dordrecht in 2011. The figure of “Zwarte Piet” is the traditional manservant of Sinterklaas.  He is traditionally portrayed as a not-so-bright Moorish servant from the 19th century, and is played by actors in blackface.

The Ombudsman ruled that the police 'has violated the requirement that fundamental rights have to be respected' which notably included freedom of speech.

Furthermore, the arrest was deemed both unlawful and disproportionately violent.

Moreover, the police acted unprofessionally by asking Gario and Afriyie the following questions during their interrogation: 'Were you born in the Netherlands?', 'What is your ethnicity that you want to ask attention for this issue?', and 'Do you not consider Sinterklaas to be part of a tradition?'  The Ombudsman: 'The fact that a police officer disagree with the stated opinion of a suspect, does not mean that the police officer can voice that sentiment during questioning.'

Click here for the report (Dutch only).

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