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Netherlands: Tougher Penalties for Acts Involving Human Smuggling Proposed

(Nov. 7, 2015) The Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice has introduced legislation to tighten penalties against human smugglers. According to the Ministry, the aim of the measures, which would lengthen the applicable prison terms, “is to combat the degrading activities of these offenders more effectively” and “to do greater justice to the gravity of the crime.” (Increased Penalties for People Smuggling, Ministry for Security and Justice website (Oct. 16, 2015).)

Under the proposed measures, the maximum term of imprisonment for human smuggling would be increased from four years to six. Longer sentences of up to eight years, instead of the current six, might be imposed if such activity were carried out in connection with a public office or a profession. If the smuggling were done as an organized group activity, the maximum sentence would be ten years’ imprisonment instead of the current eight. In the event of grievous bodily harm or death as a result of the human smuggling, the perpetrators would face a prison term of up to 15 years or up to 18 years, respectively, instead of the current limits of 12 and 15 years. (Id.; Criminal Code (Mar. 3, 1981, text valid to 2012), art. 197a, EJTN (European Judicial Training Network) website; Wetboek van Strafrecht (as last amended May 29, 2015, in force Aug. 1, 2015), art. 197a, OVERHEID.NL.) The current Criminal Code also provides for the imposition of a fine of the fifth category, which as of January 1, 2014, is €81,000 (about US$89,000) as an alternative punishment for each of the sentences prescribed above. (Wetboek van Strafrecht, art. 23(4), OVERHEID.NL.)

In the meantime, a legislative proposal put forward in the Staten-Generaal (the Dutch Parliament) in late 2014, and currently being reviewed by the Tweede Kamer (Lower House), would criminalize sexual acts performed with a prostitute/someone prostituted when the person knows or must reasonably suspect that the prostitute is a victim of human trafficking. (34.091: Initiatiefvoorstel-Segers, Volp en Kooiman Wet strafbaarstelling misbruik prostitué(e)s die slachtoffer zijn van mensenhandel, Eerste Kamer [Upper House] website (last visited Nov. 4, 2015) (this is a webpage that tracks the progress of the legislation).) The proposed punishment is up to four years’ imprisonment and a fourth category fine (€20,250, about US$22,256). The initiative would amend the Criminal Code with the insertion of a new article 273g (and with the insertion of a new article 286g in the Criminal Code of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba, Caribbean islands that are special municipalities of the Netherlands). (Text of the bill, Lower House, Session 2014-2015, 34.091, no. 2 (introduced Nov. 25, 2014) (last visited Nov. 3, 2015) (in Dutch).)