Dutch state panel: El Al discriminated against dark-skinned passengers

(JTA) — El Al agents in the Netherlands exercised racial discrimination against dark-skinned passengers, a Dutch government judicial watchdog on human rights ruled.

The ruling by the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights, a legal review board set up the Dutch parliament, said that El Al representatives performed racial profiling on five Dutch passengers because of their appearance and race.

It was following up a complaint by a university student of Pakistani descent who traveled to Israel from Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam on Jan. 28, 2011, with 14 other students, nine of whom were white.

According to the ruling, the tickets of the five dark-skinned passengers were labeled with the letter T and they were questioned about their ethnicity and origins by El Al agents while the Caucasians were allowed to board without questioning.

The institute, an advisory organ that was launched in 2012, did not name any of the passengers or agents in its ruling, which is not binding on the Dutch legal system.

The questioning of the five students was “intimidating,” the ruling read. “Their hand luggage was checked, they had to undress and were frisked.”

El Al has denied racial discrimination and told the institute that it questions passengers based on non-discriminative criteria, but would not specify which criteria were employed, the institute said.

“El Al’s directives for questioning and all other security procedures are decided by Israeli security bodies, including the Shin Bet,” El Al spokeswoman Anat Friedman told JTA.

 

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