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Dutch court rules eviction of squatters violates Europe rights treaty

The Hague Court of Appeals [official website, in Dutch] on Monday prohibited the eviction [press release, in Dutch] of squatters in Amsterdam, The Hauge, and Leeuwarden. In an oral ruling, the court relied on the European Convention on Human Rights [text], asserting that a person cannot be forced from a home without a prior affirmation from a judge that the eviction is legal. The European Court of Human Rights [official website] has issued similar decisions. To crack down on crime, the Dutch House of Representatives and Senate [official websites, in Dutch] imposed a ban on squatting [No. 320; materials, in Dutch], which took effect on October 1. The law gives prosecutors the ability to vacate criminally squatted buildings without a court order. The court announced their ruling on Monday, as the first evacuations are planned for following day. A written decision will be available next week.

Squatting in the Netherlands has been a tolerated practice for many decades. After Parliament passed legislation banning squatting, squatters in Amsterdam and Nijmegen held protests and riots before the law took effect in October. Previous attempts to ban squatting in 2006 were unsuccessful. In the 1970s, a Dutch court ruled that entering an unused building was not trespassing. In 2009, the Eastern High Court of Denmark [official website, in Danish] ruled that the Copenhagen counterculture group Christiana [community website, in Danish] had not acquired permanent property rights [JURIST report] and no squatters' rights were accrued by the community to the abandoned Copenhagen navy base and that the Danish government [official website] was within its rights to cancel the group's use of the property. In 2005, 46,000 people were arrested in Zimbabwe's squatting sweep [JURIST report] "Operation Restore Order," a highly controversial government initiative to reduce crime and illegal buildings in Harare and other towns. According to the UN and the opposition, the exercise left between 200,000 and 1.5 million people homeless, respectively.

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