A complaint has been filed against the Netherlands with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on behalf of Emiel de Bruijne for a violation of his right to identity.  

De Bruijne was born in East Jerusalem in 1992, an area considered to be occupied Palestinian Territory according to both international law and the Netherlands. However, the Dutch government registered De Bruijne’s birthplace as “Israel” in the Personal Records Database (in Dutch: Basisregistratie Personen, BRP); the BRP is the country’s central database. From 2010 onwards, De Bruijne repeatedly pointed out the erroneous nature of the entry to the Dutch authorities, but after consultation with the Dutch Ministry of Internal Affairs he was merely offered the possibility to change his country of birth to “Unknown”. In 2012 the Ministry announced that the option of “(occupied) Palestinian territory” would be added to the BRP (see news message of 25 November 2012) but it later took back that decision.

De Bruijne considers his Palestinian descent to be an essential part of his identity. This identity was formed also by his own experiences with the Israeli occupation and the related human rights violations of which his family and friends have fallen victim. Because of the erroneous registration in the BRP, he is often confronted with the “birth country Israel”.  Apart from the pain of that confrontation, these circumstances make it difficult for De Bruijne to profile himself as someone of Palestinian descent: official documentation and registration portals are often the first calling card in the public domain. Additionally, De Bruijne considers the current entry to be contrary to international law. Due to the continuing conflict between Israel and Palestine, this is a very sensitive matter for the Palestinian community in the Netherlands.

From 2014 onwards, De Bruijne entered into an administrative law procedure with a view to changing his country of birth either to “Palestine” of “Occupied Palestinian Territory”. In the context of those proceedings, he invoked his right to identity, which is protected by Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) as the ECtHR confirmed in the case of Ciubotaru v. Moldovia. The District Court of Utrecht and the Administrative Law Division of the Council of State held that the erroneous registration and the refusal to correct it did indeed touch upon De Bruijne’s identity, but they did not find a violation of Article 8 ECHR. In the complaint filed with the ECtHR it is substantiated that there is indeed a violation of this right.

Though the Council of State did not find a violation of Article 8 ECHR in its decision of 11 April 2018 (link; in Dutch), it did hold that the entries “Israel” and “Unknown” are incorrect. The Council of State also pointed out the arbitrariness of the BRP-system for registering birth countries, as non-recognized countries and territories such as the Western Sahara, the Panama Canal Zone and Taiwan are included. According to the Council of State it is unclear why it is not possible to opt for a designation for the territory that is internationally used, such as “Occupied Palestinian Territories”. Based on that ruling, De Bruijne again requested to amend the registration but he has not received a concrete commitment about it thus far. This is one of the reasons why he has now submitted the case to the ECtHR.

Mr. De Bruijne is represented in this procedureby Tom de Boer .


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