Judgment in the case of the Martijn association
Martijn association banned and dissolved
The Supreme Court has banned the Martijn association and ordered its dissolution.
The Public Prosecution Service lodged an application asking the district court to ban and
dissolve the Martijn association. The district court granted the application, but the court of
appeal denied it, arguing that society is capable of coping with statements and practices
which, though repugnant, are not criminal offences. Society has no choice but to put up with
ideas that are widely deemed abhorrent. This analysis is faulty because it is based on the
view that the association’s activities would have to be disruptive to society in order to
warrant prohibition, but that is not a condition that has to be met. Therefore, the appeal
court’s judgment cannot be upheld.
The Supreme Court is competent to dispose of the case itself. Given the fundamental nature
of the right of association, the mere fact that the activities of an association pose a threat to
public policy does not automatically warrant the prohibition and dissolution of the
association. In a specific case the grounds for prohibition and dissolution must clearly
outweigh the fundamental freedom of association.
The facts of this case show that the Martijn association trivialises the dangers of sexual
contact with young children and glamorises and promotes contact of this nature.
The Supreme Court adds that according to prevailing societal views in the Netherlands
sexual contact between adults and young children is a genuine and grave violation of the
physical and sexual integrity of the child, which can lead to serious and lasting psychological
damage. Furthermore, children have a particular need for protection against adults who
seek such contact, because their age and associated vulnerability makes them dependent
on adults. This is a societal view that is widely held outside the Netherlands as well, and the
Netherlands has undertaken international obligations to protect children against sexual
Although great restraint must be exercised in banning and dissolving associations, the
exceptionally serious nature of the acts concerned, the nature of the activities of the
association – which are aimed at removing any barriers inhibiting its members and others
who visit its website from having sexual contact with children, and as a result promoting
such contact – and the intentions of its members, which are manifestly consistent with the
association’s aims, compel the court to take the view that, considering all the rights and
interests concerned, in a democratic society it is necessary to ban and dissolve the
association in the interests of protecting the health, rights and freedoms of children. For
these reasons, the activities of the Martijn association are incompatible with public policy.
The judgment of the appeal court is therefore overturned and the judgment of the district
court is upheld.