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Eugene Volokh Headshot

Threatened Dutch Politician Required to Move Out of Her Apartment,

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From Expatica News:

Liberal Party MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali has been ordered to vacate the high-security home she is renting in The Hague within four months.

An appeal court sided with her neighbours who complained her presence put their own safety at risk and caused disruption to their lives....

Somali-born Hirsi Ali is known as a critic of aspects of Islam and she went into hiding in November 2004 when filmmaker Theo van Gogh was murdered. They had finished work shortly before his murder on Submission, a short film about the ill-treatment of women under Islam.

Hirsi Ali and fellow MP Geert Wilders spent several months in hiding in secret locations due to death threats made against them because of their stance on Islam....

The neighbours ... won on Thursday when an appeal court accepted Hirsi Ali's presence meant they no longer felt safe in their own apartments or in the communal areas of the complex. The court ruled that is contravened Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights which guarantees respect for a person's private and family life.

The Dutch State had contravened these rights by moving to the apartment complex without seeking their consent and without taking measures to diminish the neighbours' valid fears, the court said....

I understand the neighbors' concerns, but it seems to me on balance quite wrong -- and quite destructive of the fight against terrorism -- that they would have a legal right and, essentially, a European constitutional right to insist that Ali move out. Some risks, it seems to me, are inevitable whenever terrorists are trying to intimidate your countrymen and interfere with your democratic process. Sure, most of us would rather that these risks be borne entirely by others. But I don't think that we ought to have a legal right to insist on this. And if we do have the legal right to insist on it, that seems to only strengthen terrorists' ability to intimidate.

Plus, as PeakTalk points out, this "is not just about one outspoken member of parliament. Beyond a number of politicians there is a growing constituency of writers, artists and cartoonists who may rightfully claim government protection. And in most cases their neighbors are equally likely to take a less than charitable view of their right to exercise free speech. This is once more evidence of how Europeans fail to understand the bigger picture and are more than willing to let some short term comfort prevail over the long term survival of core values that built their societies in the first place." (I should stress, by the way, that this failing is a common and understandable human failing, not just a European one; it's just a shame if European law comes to reinforce this failing.) And, of course, "those responsible for threatening her will have the last laugh."

Here's the opinion, in Dutch, and here's a translation provided by a Dutch reader of my volokh.com blog. I first learned of the story from this Slate piece by Christopher Hitchens.