Dutch Court OKs 'Pedophile' Political Party
Monday, July 17, 2006; 3:22 PM
THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- A Dutch court refused Monday to ban a political party whose main goal is to lower the age of sexual consent from 16 to 12. The judge said it was the voters' right to judge the appeal of political parties.
The party has only three known members, one of whom was convicted of molesting an 11-year-old boy in 1987. Widely dubbed the "pedophile" party, it is unlikely ever to win a seat in parliament. The group would need around 60,000 votes, and pollsters estimate it would get fewer than 1,000.
Opponents had asked The Hague District Court to bar the party from registering for national elections in November, arguing that children have the right not to be confronted with the party's platform.
"Freedom of expression, freedom ... of association, including the freedom to set up a political party, can be seen as the basis for a democratic society," Judge H. Hofhuis said in his ruling.
"These freedoms give citizens the opportunity to, for example, use a political party to appeal for change to the constitution, law, or policy."
He noted that the PNVD party, the Dutch abbreviation of Brotherly Love, Freedom and Diversity, had not committed a crime, but was calling for a change in the law.
"It is the right of the voter to judge the appeal of political parties," he said.
The party sparked outrage when it proclaimed its existence in late May, but prosecutors declined to prosecute its members as a threat to public order.
"We expected this result," said party treasurer Ad van den Berg, 62. "We are not doing anything illegal so there is no reason to ban us."
Van den Berg was fined and given a suspended prison sentence for molesting an 11-year-old boy in 1987. After his background became known last month, he was chased from the trailer park where he lived in the city of Oostvoorne.
Anke de Wijn, an attorney representing the party's opponents, said the group was abusing Dutch tolerance.
"Victims feel hurt by the wish of pedophiles to make their desires known in public," De Wijn said. "There are few limitations on free speech, and that's good, but this group is making misuse of the privilege, to provoke."
The PNVD's known members were a president, a secretary and a treasurer, as required under Dutch law. In order to stand in elections scheduled for Nov. 22, it will have to submit a list of candidates and the signatures of at least 30 supporters to get on the ballot in any one of the country's 19 voting districts.
Ireen van Engelen of the Solace Foundation, which researches pedophilia, said the party likely would fail to register for the elections because pedophiles seek anonymity.
"They will never want to connect their name to the party and without the signatures they can't go in the elections," she said.