SyRI legislation in breach of European Convention on Human Rights

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Den Haag, 13 februari 2020

The Hague District Court has delivered a judgment today in a case about the Systeem Risico Indicatie, or SyRI. SyRI is a legal instrument used by the Dutch government to detect various forms of fraud, including social benefits, allowances, and taxes fraud. The court has ruled that the legislation regulating the use of SyRI violates higher law. The court has decided that this legislation does not comply with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which protects the right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence.


The court reviewed whether the SyRI legislation is in breach of provisions of international or European law binding on all persons. The court assessed whether the SyRI legislation complies with Article 8 paragraph 2 ECHR. This particular provision requires striking a fair balance between the interests of the community as a whole, which the legislation serves, and the right of the individuals affected by the legislation to respect for their private life and home.

S​pecial responsibility with introduction of new technologies

According to Article 8 ECHR the Netherlands – as a party to the ECHR – has a special responsibility when applying new technologies. It must strike the right balance between the benefits such technologies bring and the violation of the right to a private life through the use of new technologies. This also applies to the use of SyRI.

​Use of SyRI insufficiently transparent and verifiable

After a review of the objects of the SyRI legislation, namely preventing and combating fraud in the interest of economic welfare, in relation to the violation of private life by the legislation, the court has drawn the conclusion that in its current form the SyRI legislation fails to comply with Article 8 paragraph 2 ECHR. The court has decided that the legislation does not strike a fair balance, as required under the ECHR, which would warrant a sufficiently justified violation of private life. In that respect, the application of SyRI is insufficiently transparent and verifiable. As such, the SyRI legislation is unlawful, because it violates higher law and, as a result, has been declared as having no binding effect. 


Several civil society interest groups, including the Dutch Section of the International Commission of Jurists (NJCM) and two private individuals, instituted these proceedings against the State of the Netherlands. The Netherlands Trade Union Confederation (FNV) joined as a party in the claimants’ proceedings. Claimants want to call ‘a halt’ to the use of SyRI. They believe that by applying SyRI, the Netherlands government unlawfully violates human rights. The State disagrees and argues that the SyRI legislation contains sufficient safeguards to protect the privacy rights of all.