The police unit The Hague reported a significant increase in threats against politicians in 2022, with 1,125 reports, an increase of almost 100% compared to the previous year. The Threatened Politicians Team, which is dedicated to investigating these cases, noted that the number of threats considered criminal has increased even more: from 373 in 2021 to 889 in 2022.
This increase seems to have been mainly caused by a wave of threats directed at one specific member of the House of Representatives. The team works with the Public Prosecution Service (OM) to evaluate each report and determine whether it concerns a criminal threat.
Of the 889 threats classified as criminal in 2022, 37 resulted in a subpoena and led to legal proceedings. These cases have resulted in sentences ranging from prison sentences of up to five months to community service of up to 120 hours.
Many of the reported threats are carried out anonymously through social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram, complicating the task of identifying the perpetrators. While investigations into these cases are ongoing, the team says it often relies on the cooperation of social media companies to confirm the identities of the perpetrators.
It becomes even more complicated when the suspect is in a country with which the Netherlands does not have a mutual legal assistance treaty. Unfortunately, this was the case for nearly 600 of the 889 criminal threats in 2022. Without such treaties, local authorities in such countries are unlikely to cooperate with the investigations.
In 2022, 712 cases were ‘imposed’, meaning that they were temporarily stopped due to a lack of further investigation possibilities or because the investigation did not lead to a suspect.
The total number of threatened politicians in 2022 remained comparable to previous years. The increase in the number of reports was mainly caused by a peak in threats against one specific member of the House of Representatives.
In 2022, 37 suspects appeared before a criminal court, a significant decrease compared to 79 in the previous year. This was caused by the great burden that the many threats against one Member of Parliament placed on the Political Threatened Team, which meant that less time was available for investigation per case.
In addition, the Public Prosecution Service handled seven cases itself via an OM criminal order or OM hearing in 2022. Four cases were transferred to foreign countries with which the Netherlands does have a legal assistance treaty. Bureau Halt handled one case involving a minor, and one case was dropped by the Public Prosecution Service due to lack of evidence.
The 127 cases currently under investigation are expected to lead to new summonses and hearings before the criminal court. This ongoing trend of threats against politicians highlights the need for a strong and efficient response mechanism, but also the complexity of investigating and prosecuting such crimes in the digital age.
The Threatened Politicians Team and the Public Prosecution Service continue to work to ensure the safety of Dutch politicians and to tackle criminal threats with the full force of the law. Despite the challenges associated with this mission, they continue to work tirelessly to protect the integrity of the democratic process in the Netherlands.