Legal Info

Disclaimer: This legal briefing is a guide. It is not a definitive statement of the law and does not cover all eventualities, nor does it provide enough preparation to be arrested at an action. We highly recommend you follow a Legal Training (recurring on the 9th of every month), or at least a NVDA (Non-Violent Direct Action) Training, before you plan to participate in an action that has risks of arrests. See events page on this website for more info.

What is the right to protest?

Everyone has a right to protest and a right to express themselves and this right has its roots in international law. On an international level, the right to freedom of assembly and association and the right to expression have been recorded in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights; followed by the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights, 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1998 UN General Assembly Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, and numerous other documents.

According to international law, disruptive actions are also protected under these articles, provided that they are not violent. Nation states are allowed to limit these rights. But these limitations should always be prescribed by law and necessary in a democratic society; and in protection of limited grounds listed in these articles. Even when these limitations follow the national/local laws, they might still be regarded as disproportionate under international law. This would mean that the rule in question is in violation of international law.

Under international law, the states have both negative and positive duties when it comes to human rights. This means that the state must not only refrain from disproportionately limiting the realization of human rights; but must also actively facilitate and protect these rights.

What is the most important to remember here, is that in its fundament, the right to protest is not something we have to ask for, or we must apply for. We simply send a notice that we are coming, and the state officials must facilitate our rights.

Who has the right to protest?

In essence, your right to protest is a human right, meaning that every living soul has the right to protest and will be protected under the law. However, and unfortunately, there are some exceptions to this starting point, both in the law and in practice. We will try to capture them here as exactly as possible.


Under art. 1 of the Dutch Constitution, (principle of non-discrimination), every person is treated equal. However, we want to go more in-depth into particular situations. The baseline here is the Dutch citizen with a registered NL address. This person has the full scale of rights and is fully protected under Dutch (and international) law.

Non-Dutch EU citizens

According to EU law, an EU member state cannot discriminate between their own citizens and other EU citizens. Therefore, if you have a registered address in the NL, you have exactly the same rights and protections as a native Dutch person. (For British citizens, you have to closely follow the procedures after Brexit, to see how your legal rights develop in that matter.)

Non-EU citizens

Based on international law, you have the same rights as Dutch and EU citizens. However, we advise non-EU citizens to be extra cognizant of your actions (i.e. not a threat to national security, etc.).

People who do not have a passport (undocumented people)

As this group of people is very vulnerable, we strongly advise not to take part in any actions that could endanger their possibility of finding a safe place in this country or could enhance the chances of them having to leave the Netherlands. Additionally, if you have had your fingerprints taken when entering the country, the police might be able to identify you very quickly upon arrest without ID.


Minors can still join XR actions, but we do advise to ask your parents for consent. However, it won’t make much of a difference in law if the arrestee is a minor. Minors can be detained as long as people over 18. If their case ends up in a court of law, minors will be treated under juvenile criminal law. People of 18 years and above normally fall under the grown-up legal system, but for people that are between the ages of 18 and 23, a judge can decide they will still be prosecuted under juvenile law. When you are under 18 and arrested, your parents or caretakers will always be informed, and they can always access the person, in the same status as a lawyer.

Information for Action organisers

It’s possible to do a ‘kennisgeving’ to announce your action to the municipality. Even though this is requested by the municipality, it is by no means required. Your right to protest is inalienable and you do not have to ask for permission. If you are not planning on doing civil disobedience there are basically no downsides to doing this, but of course sometimes giving too much information can jeopardize your action. Basically, it is completely up to you how you want to go about this and how much information you provide when you are doing a ‘kennisgeving’.

Furthermore, it is good to have a clear contact person for the police, or police liaison. All communication with the police during the action should go through this person. It is important a police liaison has followed a training and has at least some experience with XR actions. You can always contact Legal Circle if you are experiencing difficulties with this.

In the case that you expect there may be arrests, Legal Circle can get you in touch with a lawyer. Together we can assess the legal risks surrounding your action and prepare Rebels for possible consequences. Make sure everyone has followed at least an Action Training and possibly also a Legal Training, so that they are properly prepared.

More info

REMEMBER Not all arrests lead to people being charged and not all charges lead to conviction (pronouncement of guilt by the court). Hence, one is only guilty and only has a criminal record upon a guilty conviction.