Illegal impounding of laptops at airports

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Patent lawyer Arnout Engelfriet says (Dutch) that searches of mobile phones and laptops at the airports by the marechaussee, a form of military police, may be illegal. He refers to the fact that the powers of the marechaussee are the same as those of the regular police, and regular police may only perform searches when they have good reason to suspect a specific wrongdoing. The marechaussee’s actions are part of a test started last year in the hope to lessen the smuggling of child pornography.

According to tech news site Tweakers.net (Dutch), the justice department wanted to keep the test a secret because of expected “legal complications.” Journalist Brenno de Winter discovered that although 900 mobile phones, 62 hard disks and sundry other digital devices were searched, none of the victims were prosecuted on the basis of these searches.

The marechaussee was installed in 1814 by later king Willem I as a successor to Napoleon’s reviled gendarmerie. Its tasks have included policing of citizens from the word go. When the civil police reorganized in 1988, guard and police duties at national airport Schiphol got assigned to the marechaussee. The organization took over guard duties for the royal familie in 1908, a job hitherto performed by the palace’s gardening staff.

(Photo: colargol87, some rights reserved.)

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