The judge should be able to decide whether to release criminals who are serving a life sentence. The Council for Criminal Justice and Youth Protection (RSJ) advocates this in a Monday morning published advice† At the moment, only the Minister for Legal Protection can determine whether someone is eligible for a pardon.
The RSJ argues for a replacement of the current procedure by „a judicial review […] because it offers better guarantees for an impartial and independent judgment than the pardon procedure”. When a minister decides on whether to grant a pardon, “this procedure is sensitive to political influences”, according to the Council. The advice was handed over to Minister for Legal Protection Franc Weerwind (D66).
A judge also has more substantive knowledge and experience to decide on the release of life sentences, according to the RSJ. Last year, the then minister Sander Dekker (VVD) already announced that he wanted to review the current procedure.
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In recent years, there has been more criticism at home and abroad of the Dutch penal system regarding life sentences. The European Convention on Human Rights labels a life sentence with no possibility of release as “inhumane”. Following pressure from the European Court of Human Rights, a procedure has been in place since 2017 in which the minister decides whether the prisoner is eligible for pardon after 25 years of detention.