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In Memoriam: John Bouwman

16 Apr 2023
John Bouwman

John had been a judge in the Netherlands since 1995.  Before he joined the bench, he had been working as a judicial support lawyer in one of the Dutch courts.

In the Netherlands, there has long been a system of rotation for judges.  As a result, few judges have the opportunity to obtain lengthy experience in one of the specialised areas of law.  John showed a great affinity with migration law and soon acquired a thorough knowledge of it.  So much so that John’s court - in Zwolle, one of the Dutch provincial capitals - was happy to retain John, by exception, more or less permanently for migration and asylum cases, including detention cases.

John quickly emerged as one of the few real judicial experts in Dutch migration law.  He trained countless judges, lawyers, NGOs, police officers and border guards, in and outside the Netherlands.  He was also a member of one of the international working groups evaluating European detention regulations. 

Given John’s expertise, it was logical that the Dutch Council of State  tried to persuade him to join their judicial department (the Dutch appellate level).  However, quite characteristically, John resisted it, preferring to stay at the first instance level, “in the mud”.

John was a longstanding member of the Association and, given his prominent authoritative judicial role, it was equally logical that the IARMJ approached John when the Treasurer’s vacancy was to be filled.  We were happy that John accepted the appeal made to him and he joined the IARMJ (or IARLJ as it then was) Board in 2015.  

John was never eager to be in the foreground, but he played an important role in the day-to-day business of the Association and its Dutch home office for nearly 30 years.  Until his illness made it impossible, he was working hard in the preparations for the upcoming IARMJ World Conference at the Hague, as a member of the Local Organising Committee.

John was very much a family man and he loved to travel with his wife, Ellen, to unusual destinations in and outside the Netherlands. Nor did he ever like to cancel any rehearsal of his music band, where he played the bass guitar.

The Association has placed an advertisement in commemoration of John in one of the Dutch newspapers. Immediate Past President Judge Katelijne Declerck, our long standing member Judge Liesbeth Steendijk, and the Association’s Office Manager, Liesbeth van de Meeberg, and I attended the cremation ceremony on Friday, on behalf of ourselves and all at the Association.

We will miss John very much as a loyal colleague and a true friend.  

Requiescat in pace.

Sebastiaan de Groot 
Past President
International Association of Refugee and Migration Judges