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Basic Facts about the Country

Membership of the European Union

1 January 1958

Membership of the Council of Europe

5 May 1949

Entry into force of the European Convention on Human Rights

31 August 1954

Basic Facts about the Judiciary

Budget per inhabitant

Number of professional judges per 100,000 inhabitants


Tiers in the ordinary court system


District Courts


General Courts of Appeal


Specialised Administrative Courts The Central Appeal Tribunal The Trade and Industry Appeals Tribunal


The Administrative Division of the Council of State, (appeals against administrative law judgments) The Council also has an advisory branch, which issues opinions on draft legislation.


The Supreme Court of the Netherlands (Appeals on cassation in civil, criminal, and tax cases)


Constitutional Court



Under the political responsibility of the Minister of Justice and Security, but institutionally separate

Gender breakdown of judges

All instances


Supreme court

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Judicial Governance

Type of governance system

Judicial council model - Moderate

Council for the Judiciary Has powers over all courts, except for the Supreme Court and the Administrative Division of the Council of State

  • From three to five members (currently it has five members, including three judges)
  • Six-year mandate, and can be re-appointed once for three years
  • Judge members are appointed by Royal Decree, based on a recommendation from the Minister of Justice and Security, instead of being elected by peers; the Minister recommends one of them as the Council chair.
  • Non-judge members have experience in public governance.

Court Management Boards (Existing at each court, since 2002)

  • Three members, including a court president
  • Mandate: Six years, and can be re-appointed once for three years

National Selection Committee for the Judiciary

  • Members are appointed by the Council for the Judiciary, based on a selection made by the Committee itself.
  • The National Selection Committee is composed of six judges and six non-judge members, who include at least one public prosecutor and one attorney.

Court presidents – selection Male/female court presidents

  • The Council for the Judiciary sends a list of suitable candidates to the court’s Selection Committee. The Committee is comprised of four judges, two staff members and two board members. It is chaired by a judge member, who has the deciding vote in the case of a tie. The Council has agreed to accept the choice of the Committee as binding “in principle”.
  • Equivalent proportions: All instances – 56/44 %

Training and Study Center for the Judiciary (SSR), responsible for the education and training of judges

  • Shared ownership by the Council and Prosecutor’s Office, through the board of owners and the executive board, with representatives of each of the two institutions

Training and Study Center for the Judiciary (SSR), responsible for the education and training of judges

  • Shared ownership by the Council and Prosecutor’s Office, through the board of owners and the executive board, with representatives of each of the two institutions

The Board of Delegates

  • Representatives of all the courts of the first instance and courts of appeal. The Board gives advice – solicited or unsolicited – to the Council regarding the performance of its tasks. The Council must provide the Board with the requested information needed by the Board to perform its duties.

National Consultation Bodies Landelijk overleg vakinhoud (LOV)

  • Representatives of all the courts of the first instance and courts of appeal
  • Develops guidelines for judges

Dutch Association for the Judiciary Nederlandse Vereniging voor Rechtspraak

  • Seventy per cent of judges are members.
  • Establishes policies implemented by a board composed of from five to seven members
  • The special committee prepares advice on topics relevant to the associations’ members, such as advice on reforms concerning the judiciary

Distribution of Responsibility

Council for the Judiciary
  • Preparation of budget for the Council/courts, distributing funds among courts, supervising the implementation of budgets
  • Supporting and supervising the operations at the courts; issuing general directions to management boards to secure proper operation of the courts
  • Helps secure the quality of justice, for example, by supporting the uniform application of the law and promoting legal unity
  • Advice on legislative bills (solicited and non-solicited) and on policy with consequences for the judiciary.
  • Development of directions and guidelines
  • Responsible for the strategy of the National Selection Committee for Judges, appointments and dismissals of its members; Proposing candidates for judicial appointments, based on the opinions of court boards and the advice of the National Selection Committee of Judges
  • Role in judicial promotions (can refuse to propose the person selected at the court level for promotion, but never does so)
  • The initial selection of candidates for court president positions (sends candidates to the court selection commission).
  • Nationwide activities relating to the recruitment, selection, appointment, and training of court staff
  • Acts as a spokesperson of the judiciary in the political and public debate
  • Conducts research and disseminates research results
National Selection Committee for Judges
  • Initial selection of candidates: those that have passed the National Selection Committee of Judges must apply to a court
Court Management Boards
  • Adoption of internal regulations on working methods; courts’ internal structures; allocation of cases (subject to confirmation by the Council)
  • Daily management of courts, including preparation, adoption and implementation of the budget, information systems, and personnel matters
  • Promotion of legal quality and uniform application of law (without intruding on judicial independence)
  • Deciding on judicial promotions in district and appeals courts (upon the advice of the internal selection committee of judges, which selects candidates based on an application letter and interview. The Council for the Judiciary then proposes the appointment to the Minister of Justice and Security, who in turn proposes the appointment to the King).


Minister of Justice and Security
  • Negotiation of judiciary’s budget, and allocation of funds (Council also involved, see above)
  • Supervises the Council, gives general directions regarding court operations, can set aside the Council’s decisions
  • Role in judicial appointments: Verifies whether the candidate fulfils the legal requirements to be appointed; counter-signs the appointment decision, which is also signed by the King. It is an unwritten rule that the King is not allowed to sign a proposal from the Minister.
  • Proposes whoever is proposed for promotion by the Council.
  • Selection of Supreme Court judges (upon a Supreme Court Proposal)
  • Adoption of the budget
  • Adoption of relevant laws


Politicisation of the Judicial Council through appointing its members

Judges do not elect judge members of the governing bodies, such as the Council for the Judiciary, among themselves. Discussions about amending the selection procedure for Council members to limit the influence of the Minister of Justice and Security are ongoing. Such amendments would limit room for abuse by the executive and be consistent with Council of Europe recommendations. With the fifth member of the Council for the Judiciary, three out of five members are now judges.

Discretionary powers of the political actors as regards judicial careers

Besides the risk of undue influence by the executive over the Council, through appointing its members, commentators also view the executive’s direct involvement in decision-making on judicial careers as potentially problematic. The Minister of Justice and Security has a role in judicial appointments, verifying the compatibility of candidates with the legal requirements and appointing them. In practice, however, the Minister has always followed the Council’s recommendations. The Ministry is also involved in judicial promotions. While the Council for the Judiciary proposes judges selected at the court level for promotion, nothing precludes the Minister from rejecting the proposal, although no Minister has ever done so. Nonetheless, the judges’ association has advocated for a legal duty for the Minister to accept the Council’s proposal.

Political (including parliamentary) appointments of (Supreme Court) judges

Currently, the parliament has a role in appointing Supreme Court judges: It selects and ranks three candidates from a list of six drawn up by a Committee of Supreme Court judges, and invites the first-ranked person for an interview. The selected candidate is nominated by the Minister of Justice for appointment. The Government originally committed to a constitutional revision limiting the role of parliament, taking away its power to nominate. The amendment would have granted selection power to a three-person Committee, with one member appointed by the parliament’s speaker, one by the president of the Supreme Court, and one jointly by the two. Eventually, on 6 February 2023, the Government abandoned the proposal to amend the appointment procedure, based on the advice of the Council of State. The Council of State concluded that the parliament’s current role enhances the democratic legitimacy of the procedure, and that the engagement of the Committee of the Supreme Court judges already sufficiently prevents undesired political influence. It has been reported that the Supreme Court was not opposed to the current procedure, since, in practice, the parliament always based its choice on the list of candidates put forward by the Committee.

Risks for the internal independence of judges

Commentators have argued that internal judicial independence is not always guaranteed in the Netherlands. According to them, the problem lies in the risk of abuse of discretionary power by court management boards, especially in view of their lack of transparency, for example, as regards case assignment and transfers from one team or court to another.
Additionally, the efficiency-driven manner of financing courts has raised concerns, as judges may be forced or incentivised to make calculated procedural decisions to meet targets, disregarding fair trial guarantees in the process.


The Council for the Judiciary has established a new appointment procedure for members of court management boards. The agreement between the Council, judiciary association and other representatives of the judiciary is aimed at giving judges more influence on the appointment of the members of court management boards. It entailed the establishment of a committee composed of four judges, two members of the court management boards and two court officials, who interviewed candidates and proposed one candidate to the Council for the Judiciary for appointment.


An evaluation of the temporary appointment procedure for members of court management boards, which aims to increase the role of judges and court staff, is expected to be finalised in the summer of 2023. The evaluation will aid in the lead up to a new agreement on a procedure for future appointments.

Need to reinforce guarantees of judicial integrity

As reported in 2022, the government intended to abolish the opportunity for judges to be members of the national and European Parliament (as recommended by the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption – GRECO). The plan was also to introduce additional rules regulating the holding and disclosure of financial interests by judges, and the implementation of an integrity policy by court management boards. Based on an act to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism, the Minister of Finance has introduced rules for judges in apex courts and the Council for the Judiciary, their spouses and children, and the partners of their children, to disclose the origin of their assets. These rules do not apply to judges in district courts or courts of appeal.

Slow digitalisation of the justice system

In 2022, the European Commission recommended that the Netherlands “continue efforts to improve the level of digitalisation of the justice system”. While the Netherlands has made some progress in this area, particularly as regards publication of judgments and digital solutions for court proceedings, according to the Commission, in 2023 the rate of publishing judgments still remained low. Hence, the Commission has called for continued efforts to address the issue.

Danger of politicisation/lack of guarantees of prosecutorial independence

The power of the executive to give instructions to prosecutors in individual criminal cases, even if rarely used in practice, potentially endangers prosecutorial independence. The removal of this power, so as to reinforce prosecutorial independence, has been discussed. Such a change would be consistent with the Council of Europe recommendations. However, the Council of State has questioned the need for change, suggesting the current balance between the independence of the prosecution service and the political responsibility of the Minister of Justice and Security is adequate. As highlighted by the Commission, the prosecution service itself does not see the need for amending legislation, since the Minister has not used this power in practice and the law on judicial organisation contains adequate accompanying guarantees. The Dutch judiciary association supported the draft legislation, however, arguing that this power undermines mutual trust in the EU, which is based on the presumption that the prosecution office is independent from the executive.

Absence of constitutional review

Article 120 of the Dutch Constitution precludes courts from reviewing the constitutionality of laws and treaties. This means that, even if a court concludes that the law it is tasked to apply is unconstitutional, it is still obliged to apply it. The Advisory Division of the Council of State provides advice on the constitutionality of bills. Often, however, constitutionality is revealed only in the practice of the application of laws. Dutch courts will not apply national law when it contradicts international law, including the European Convention of Human Rights. International law does not, however, always apply to the case and provide the safeguards against problematic interpretation of legislation. In such instances, a review of constitutionality could provide a safeguard.


After the childcare allowance scandal (over harsh legislation requiring the reimbursement of erroneously paid childcare allowances), the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission issued a number of recommendations regarding all three branches of power, including the judiciary. The Venice Commission noted that “while the shortcomings in individual rights protection uncovered in the Childcare Allowance Case are indeed serious and systemic and involve all branches of [G]overnment, it appears that eventually the rule of law mechanisms in the Netherlands did work.” With regards to the judicial branch, the Commission suggested establishing channels for the judiciary to draw other branches’ attention to legislation that is giving rise to systemic problems in practice. The Commission also highlighted that “it could be considered whether Article 120 of the Constitution should be amended or whether other mechanisms of constitutional review should be introduced.”


The Dutch judiciary has sought to draw lessons from and provide adequate follow-up to the findings related to the childcare allowance scandal, within the remit of its competences. The Supreme Court and the Council for the Judiciary already use their annual reports to flag potentially problematic rules, and the Council of State has announced its intention to “increase the signalisation of such legislation”. A new approach in the case law of the Administrative Jurisdiction Division of the Council of State involves closer scrutiny of the proportionality of administrative measures.


The Government reported to the European Commission that the Government, in dialogue with the parliament, would work further in 2023 towards establishing a system of constitutional review.

Positive Developments & Achievements

Ongoing discussions in the Netherlands revolve around the necessity for stronger formal safeguards against the abuse of power by political branches (legislative and executive) that remain involved in decision-making concerning judicial careers. So far, the conduct of these political branches has not posed a major threat to judicial independence. Instances of undue pressure on courts are rare and accidental, rather than widespread and systemic. The rule of law culture demonstrated by politicians’ respect for judicial independence makes their involvement in decision-making less problematic than it is in other EU member states lacking such a culture. Nevertheless, there is the theoretical possibility of such a threat emerging if the political commitment to and respect for judicial independence wanes.

Increased political pressure on judiciaries in other EU member states appears to have prompted discussion on how to strengthen formal guarantees against political interference. Such guarantees would help if politicians’ respect for judicial independence were to fade. They would also shield Dutch politicians from accusations of double standards when commenting on the judiciary crisis in other EU member states.

The efficiency of the justice system remains high. The government has acknowledged concerns, and substantially increased the budget for the judiciary.

Various other legislative initiatives, such as the one precluding judges from simultaneously becoming members of national and European parliaments, show that the Netherlands takes criticisms seriously. The rationale of the mentioned initiative was to strengthen the separation of powers and the independence of the judiciary.

A series of requests to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) for preliminary rulings has originated from the District Court of Amsterdam, which, since 2014, has had exclusive jurisdiction in the Netherlands to decide on incoming European Arrest Warrants (EAWs). The dialogue with the CJEU led to the adjustment of the law, transferring the power to issue EAWs from the public prosecutor’s office to an investigating judge, because public prosecutors can receive instructions from the Minister of Justice and Security. At the European level, this offered a chance to engage in a discussion on how to assess the legal system in another member state of the EU.

Rankings and Surveys

Expert Recommendations

European Commission, Rule of Law Report, 2023

Continue efforts to improve the level of digitalisation of the justice system, in particular as regards the publication of judgments.

Fourth Evaluation Round, Second Compliance Report, Corruption Prevention, 2021

Adopted by GRECO at its 88 the Plenary Meeting (Strasbourg, 20-22 September 2021)


  1. GRECO recommended that a restriction on the simultaneous holding of the office of judge and that of member of either chamber of parliament be laid down in law.
  2. This recommendation was considered not implemented in the Addendum to the Second Compliance Report. GRECO noted the outcome of the consultations in the judiciary which had led to a positive opinion of the Council for the Judiciary on the need in principle for a prohibition on judges in office simultaneously being members of parliament. Legal amendments to this end appeared to be underway.
  3. The authorities of the Netherlands now report that work is still ongoing on legislation to ban the simultaneous holding of the office of judge and member of either chamber of parliament. It is expected that the relevant bill will be available for public consultation in the second half of 2021.
  4. GRECO urges the authorities to accelerate the law-making process necessary to comply with the recommendation. Given the early stage of the procedure, GRECO can only conclude that the recommendation remains not implemented.
  5. GRECO concludes that recommendation v remains not implemented.

Compliance with European Courts' Judgements

Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU)

State Performance


Number of unimplemented CJEU rulings related to the judiciary

European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)

State Performance


Implementation record


Number of leading judgments pending implementation Very Low

29 %

Percentage of leading judgements from the last 10 years still pending implementation Moderate



Average time leading judgments have been pending implementation Moderate
Non-Implementation of European Courts Judgments and the Rule of Law | EIN & DRI

Judgements with pending implementation

Selected on relevance to the judiciary / rule of law

Keskin v. the Netherlands

These cases concern the domestic courts’ refusal to allow the applicant defendants to cross-examine prosecution witnesses, whose statements were used as evidence in criminal proceedings conducted between 2013 and 2019 (violations of Article 6§§1 and 3(d)).

In Keskin, the Court of Appeal rejected the request of the defence as the latter had failed to substantiate its interest in the examination of the witnesses (§ 54). The Court observed that this refusal was in line with a leading judgment issued by the Dutch Supreme Court in 2014 (upheld by two subsequent rulings in 2017); however, these judgments were not in line with the Court’s case-law, under which the interest of the defence in being able to have prosecution witnesses examined in its presence must in principle be presumed (§ 61).

In Çaliskan, the rejection was based on the fact that the applicant defendant had invoked his right to remain silent. The Court underlined that “the right of an accused to cross-examine witnesses against him or her cannot be made dependent on his or her renunciation of the right to remain silent”. Furthermore, for one witness the request was also rejected because the defence had failed to substantiate its interest in the examination. In this respect, the Court found that “if the prosecution has decided that a particular person is a relevant source of information and relies on his or her testimony at the trial, and that testimony is used to support a conviction, it must be presumed that his or her appearance and questioning are necessary” (§ 11).

In Safssafi, the rejection was based on the grounds that the applicant’s counsel had not submitted the request in time and because “there was no reason to doubt the accuracy of the witness statements” (§ 10). The Court, as in Çaliskan, referred to the conditions under which, it must be presumed that appearance and questioning of a witness are necessary (§ 11).

In all three cases, the Court found that the evidence of the non-cross-examined witnesses was decisive and that there were no sufficient counterbalancing factors to compensate for the handicaps under which the defence laboured. It thus considered the trials as a whole unfair.

An initial action plan for the case of Keskin (No. 2205/16) was submitted by the authorities on 19/10/2021 (DH-DD(2021)1098). An updated group action plan/report is awaited including information on the cases Caliskan (No. 34507/16) and Safssafi (No. 61125/19).

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Maassen v. the Netherlands

These cases concern the domestic courts’ insufficiently reasoned decisions (2014-2017) regarding the applicants’ continued pre-trial detention (violations of Article 5§3). Hasselbaink furthermore concerns a violation of the applicant’s right to a speedy judicial review of his pre-trial detention (violation of Article 5§4).

Regarding the Article 5§3 violations, the European Court held that the domestic courts’ decisions prolonging all applicants’ pre-trial detention failed to address the applicants’ arguments contesting the persistence of the grounds that had justified their initial placement in pre-trial detention. Those subsequent decisions merely referred back to the reasons set out in the decisions taken at the early stages of the proceedings and confirmed, in a relatively stereotyped way and without any further explanation, the validity of the assessments previously made; they thus constituted little more than a chain of references leading back to these early orders concerning the applicants’ pre-trail detention. The Court furthermore held that the depth of the courtroom discussions, reflected into the official records of the hearings concerned could not compensate for the lack of detail in the court decisions.

Regarding the Article 5§4 violation, the Court noted that it took the Rotterdam Regional Court twenty-two days to determine the applicant’s request of 13 July 2016 for release from pre-trial detention. The Court considered that this period fell short of the requirement of a speedy judicial decision within the meaning of Article 5§4 of the Convention.

The grouped action report received on 18 March 2022 (currently under assessment).

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