Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

Riots in Hague after custody death

Dutch police have detained 200 people for ignoring a ban on public assembly imposed in a neighbourhood hit by days of late-night rioting following the death of a man in police custody.

Four nights of rioting in a predominantly immigrant neighbourhood in The Hague has drawn comparisons with angry protests in the US following deaths of black men at the hands of white police officers.

Prosecutors investigating Sunday's death of Mitch Henriquez, a 42-year-old from the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba, say he probably died of oxygen starvation caused during his arrest at a music festival.

The five officers involved have been suspended.

Mr Henriquez's family has called for a silent march in his memory tomorrow and appealed for calm.

Hague mayor Jozias van Aartsen strongly rejected comparisons with the US.

"There is absolutely nothing in common between the work of American police forces and the Dutch police and The Hague force," he told national broadcaster NOS this week.

The five officers involved are being investigated as suspects in his death.

Protesters have gathered each night in the Schilderswijk neighborhood of The Hague, carrying banners protesting against what they perceive as racism and the excessive use of force by police.

Mr Henriquez's family, have said in comments reported in Dutch media that they do not believe he was a victim of racist policing.

The Dutch National Ombudsman's office, which investigates disputes between citizens and government agencies, last year published a report following allegations of discriminatory policing in the Schilderswijk, a neighbourhood of 60,000 people of 125 different nationalities.

The report, which called policing there "a mix of peacekeeping and crime fighting", found "no indication of structural abuses in the behaviour of police" in Schilderswijk but said "police and citizens need to work to prevent escalation".

Justice minister Ard van der Steur told reporters that residents say troublemakers are pouring into the neighbourhood to riot. He said the disorder has to stop.

"Of course, there is concern and anger at what possibly happened last weekend," Mr Van der Steur said. "That is understandable. But this reaction is unacceptable."

Sinan Cankaya, an anthropologist who has studied racial profiling by Amsterdam police, said the Netherlands' long-standing image as a tolerant, multicultural society masks racism in areas like the job market and in night life. A Dutch man of Turkish descent, Mr Cankaya said he was regularly barred from nightclubs his white friends were allowed into.

"The idea of Dutch tolerance is part of the problem because it blocks and hinders us Dutch from being self-critical and just facing the issue of racism in the Netherlands," he said.


From Belfast Telegraph