Will Johnson loses his bid for AOV equal to Dutch pension

Former Commissioner of Saba Will Johnson and his legal counsel attorney-at-law Michiel Bijkerk from Bonaire have lost a procedure with the United Na­tions Human Rights Council for payment of the old age pension AOV to be equal to the AOW pension in the European Nether­lands.

Johnson, a pensioner himself, submitted this case pertaining to the difference in the amount of old age pension received by pen­sioners in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba and the European part of the Netherlands on July 20, 2015.

Johnson was born in Saba and has lived there for his entire life. He has been receiving an old age pension since October 10, 2001, in accordance with the General Pension Insurance Ordinance, which was the relevant law appli­cable at the time in Saba. All citi­zens of the former Netherlands Antilles were entitled to receive an old age pension as of the age of 60.

In its ruling which was presented on August 8, 2022, the 15-mem­ber Human Rights Council Com­mittee ruled that the facts of this case did not reveal a violation of Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Po­litical Rights.

This article states that all persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. “In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guar­antee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, colour, sex, language, re­ligion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status,” the article reads.

In its assessment, the Hu­man Rights Committee established that insofar as there exists a difference in treatment of old age pen­sioners under the General Old Age Pension Act and the General Old Age Pension Act BES, “that differ­ence is not to be explained in terms of personal char­acteristics, such as ethnic­ity, but on the place of resi­dency where the individual has been insured. This per­mits legislation to duly con­sider regional differences and characteristics of an objective and reasonable nature.”

In addition, it is hard to draw any genuine compari­son between the position of pensioners living in the Ca­ribbean and the European part of the Netherlands, also in view of the range of economic and social factors which apply in these areas, the Council said.

“Thus, the value of the pension may be affected by any one or a combination of differences in, for exam­ple, inflation and exchange rates, comparative costs of living, statutory retirement age, basis for and other constituent parts of the old age pension allowance, economic growth, social security arrangements and taxation systems.”

Of the 15 committee members, only professor of International Law and Human Rights at the Nor­wegian Centre for Human Rights Gentian Zyberi had a dissenting opinion. He found that the Dutch State had violated Article 26 of the Covenant on grounds of Johnson’s residency in Saba.

Zyberi mentioned a report by the National Ombuds­man who in September 2019 addressed the difficult situation of pensioners, ex­pressing concern about the pace and the manner in which the measures taken by the authorities were being implemented.

The Ombudsman recom­mended that the reports and insights of the Neth­erlands Audit Chamber, the Netherlands Institute for Human Rights, the Advisory Department of the Council of State and the Ombudsman should all be used to address the situation. “The State party should heed this advice without any further delay,” Zyberi stated in his dissent­ing individual opinion.

However, the other 14 committee members con­sidered that the current constitutional status of the three islands of the Carib­bean Netherlands was not sufficient to place claimant in a relevantly similar po­sition to all other pension­ers living in the European Netherlands. “Any appar­ent difference in treatment had, in any event, been objectively and reasonably justified,” they stated.

This procedure followed a court case filed for judi­cial review in the Court of First Instance of Bonaire, Statia and Saba in January 2012. More than two years later, on March 12, 2014, the court rejected the ap­plication, filed by Johnson, then Commissioner in Sta­tia Reginald Zaandam and journalist Aubrey Sealy from Bonaire.

On April 10, 2014, an ap­peal was lodged with the Joint Court of Justice, which on December 15, 2014, upheld the decision of the Court of First In­stance, holding that the im­pugned difference of treat­ment between pensioners in Bonaire, Saba and Statia and those in the European Netherlands was objective­ly and reasonably justified.

The Daily Herald.

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  1. Henri René Caderius van Veen

    What a stupid initiative only based on greed.
    As if the costs of living in the Netherlands are not much, much higher than on the BES-islands.

  2. How many Dutch-born, Dutch-raised people have gone to retire in the BES islands and live on their European Dutch pension?
    How many BES islanders have gone to the Netherlands to retire and live on their Antillean pension?
    How many BES islanders currently earn a living wage on their Antillean pension in either place?
    We all know the answer, and the ruling ignores the reality on the ground.

    • The current situation is clear. Every person, whether of Caribbean or European origin gets a Dutch AOW pension related to the number of years that he/she lived in the European Netherlands. Someone born in the European Netherlands but did not live there is not entitled to a Dutch AOW pension.

      Neither have persons who never lived on the Caribbean islands any rights on an AOV retirement pension.

      This rule applies to all persons, independent to where they retire. It is obvious why Will did not stand a chance.

      Kees Jansen

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