About us

Human Rights in Finance . EU (HRIF.EU) is formally established in August 2023 as a civil society foundation. HRIF.EU protects human rights in Finance. For all kinds of economic transactions we focus on correcting and preventing human rights infringments that are the result of intrusive and improper regualtory rules or actions. In doing so, we focus on the complex domain of financial and anti-money laundering regulation and the behaviour of companies, regulators and supervisors where they go too far.

HRIF.EU is active since 2019

The actual inception of HRIF.EU dates back to the publication of a vital dissertation by Carolin Kaiser, titled: Privacy and Identity Issues in Financial Transactions: The proportionality of the European anti-money laundering legislation. This dissertation outlines and argues convincingly that in essence the European AML legislation is in violation of fundamental human rights and as such could be annulled by the European Court of Justice (considering all prior rulings and case law).

From that moment on, of the main founders of HRIF.EU Simon Lelieveldt (now the first Chairman) became active in promoting the respect for Human Rights in financial legislation and anti-money laundering legislation. He was the driving force behind the preparation of the joint letter of Privacy First and United Bitcoin Companies asking the Dutch Ministry of Finance to not approve rules which lead to rampant export of personal data.

Infringe human rights first, repair later

Over time, it has become clear that the reality of business and government life in the Netherlands is that human rights are infringed. For banks it is cheaper and easier to violate those rights than to violate anti-money laundering laws and financial regulation. Yet, also governments do not really care.

The two biggest fines given by the Dutch Data Protection Authority are for the Dutch Ministry of Finance/Tax Office, who were found to be discriminating and illegally harvesting/storing ‘fraud data’. This fraud data was effectively ethnic profiling which lead to the resignation of the Dutch government.

In essence what we can see is that companies and governments have no hesitation to ‘move fast and break things’ when pursuing their objective. They move fast, infringe human rights and only repair this when some police officer or formal authority steps in and requests them to undo the human rights infringements.

The judge needs to correct human rights infringing law makers

A good example of such a reparation mechanism via law is also to be found in the Dutch environment. In 2020, a Dutch court passed judgment in a case about a digital welfare fraud detection system called Systeem Risico Indicatie (SyRI). The court ruled that the SyRI legislation is unlawful because it does not comply with the right to privacy under the European Convention of Human Rights. So it struck out the law as a violation of higher Treaties.

HRIF.EU addresses human rights infringements to prevent and minimize damages

Ideally our foundation, Human Rights in Finance (EU) prevents human rights infringements in the financial sector from occuring before the damage is done. We do so by writing letters, position papers, sharing expertise and motivating all entities in society to respect human rights. But reality shows there may not always be an open ear to such statements. Therefore, HRIF.EU adds administrative procedures and litigation to the mix. In doing so we seek to encourage correction and ensure proper legal compliance with human rights laws.

We are a small foundation that is connected to a multitude of stakeholders and legal knowledge holders/legal experts. Our wide expertise allows us to identify legal and correction angles which are often overlooked. For example: we used the Bankers disciplinary Oath to confront the top executives of Dutch banks with their personal responsibility for their companies policies.

A range of actions based on knowledge how to do it right !

On our website you can see the latest position papers and news items about our ongoing actions. You can read reflections on human rights issues related to sanctions law regulations. Or read how we supported the Privacy Manifesto in 2022.

Now, we can already hear our opponents cry wolfe: ‘Ah, there is another action group using human rights to block stuff that they don’t like!’. To those readers we will outline our approach.

We are not outsiders. We know better than banks themselves how to do it right. The main difference is: we view respect for human rights as an intrinsic part of digital sustainability. This is explained in the interview with our chairman here. We are experienced in using freedom of information requests and law suits to make supervisors and companies back down and respect human rights.

In essence we invite all banks and regulated companies to not be afraid and do the same. Don’t tread on human rights of your customers but respect them and defend your customers against intrusive regulators and supervisors. It can be done and it will be very beneficial to your business and reputation as an organisation that makes the ESG-objectives work in practice.

Work plan for 2024: address excessive Dutch banks monitoring behaviour in all respects

Our work plan for 2024 is simple. We seek to correct the human rights infringements that are collectively undertaken by Dutch banks and the Dutch Bankers association. Dutch banks perform more mass surveillance and human rights infringing work towards their customers than is prescribed in the law. This raises costs of production and leads to the undue exclusion of customers.

A separate work stream is dedicated to ensuring that a legal right to a bank account is being adopted in the Dutch law book. It is impossible to live/work without a payments account. Having a payment account is not a prerogative but a universal service that must be available to all. So we have called upon the Dutch parliament in a petition (undersigned by many organisations and about 14.753 customers) to arrange this right to a bank account.

Can we support HRIF.EU somehow?

Yes of course, all help is welcome !

This year, 2024, will be the year in which we further build our organisation. So you can support us by providing case examples of human rights infringements in the financial sector, sharing our blogs/news and letting other people know what we do. Your kind assistance in this respect is highly appreciated.

For those who wish to contribute financially, please use the name Stichting Human Rights in Finance, IBAN: NL94 TRIO 0320 7857 85. When sending funds internationally, you will not only need the IBAN, but also the BIC-code for Triodos Bank. This BIC-code is TRIOBEBB and the address of Triodos Bank is: Hoofdstraat 10 – 3972 LA, Driebergen-Rijsenburg.