Amsterdam to review presence of "Black Pete" at annual parade

THE HAGUE, July 4 (Xinhua) -- An Administrative judge in Amsterdam has ruled that the mayor of Amsterdam must review whether a permit should have been granted to the presence of "Zwarte Piet," literally "Black Pete," during a city parade to celebrate the arrival of Sinterklaas November last year, local authority said Friday.

Sinterklaas is celebrated annually with the giving of gifts on Dec. 5 in the Netherlands. For decades, the celebration of Sinterklaas has been surrounded by a discussion about whether Black Pete, who is traditionally portrayed by whites in blackface and wigs of curly black hair, is a racist.

Despite some protests, mayor Eberhard van der Laan allowed the presence of Black Pete during the parade last year.

The judge ruled that due to the sensitivity that exists around the character, the city of Amsterdam must now review whether a permit should have been granted permit for the annual festivities surrounding the arrival of Sinterklaas, specifically in relation to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), concerning the right to respect private and family life.

"Given the objections shown by some Amsterdam citizens, a change to the traditions, which have been ever evolving, would be seen as positive," the judge said. "However, it must also be taken into account that 'Zwarte Piet' remains an important aspect of the festive traditions to many Amsterdam people."

The debate surrounding the arrival of Sinterklaas in 2013 already led to adopting a path of gradual change, imposing measures to ensure that firstly, the portrayal of the character would be less black and secondly, that his original servant role would be toned down.

The mayor may appeal against the verdict of the administrative judge in Amsterdam, thus taking the matter to the Council of State. The decision in regards to an appeal must be taken within six weeks.