Tomorrow is the first of February, and not only will there be a new History Carnival at The Elfin Ethicist, it is also the day that duelling law will change in the Netherlands.
The Dutch duelling law in question was written at the close of the nineteenth century. It was decided at the time that a violent private retribution for an injury to honour should be opposed in a civilized state. However, since the practice is based on a mutual agreement between the two duellists, it was also decided that a duelist who killed his opponent should be punished mildly. This nineteenth-century law therefore did not equal such a deed with murder. Our minister of justice, Piet Hein Donner, has now decided that this exception for duellists is no longer desirable, and as of tomorrow, duellists will be judged according to regular law.
Apparently, the defence in the case against the Dutch hooligans who arranged to meet for a fight in the meadows of Beverwijk in March 1997 — with fatal consequences — attempted to bring the duelling law into effect, since supporters of soccer teams Ajax and Feyenoord called each other on their mobile phones to set a date for the violent confrontation. In the end, though, the duelling law was not applied to this case of pre-arranged violence.
Interestingly, the Dutch media reporting on this change of law seem to think that a duel is a medieval joust. A commercial channel brought us reporters dressed up as knights, complete with damsels in distress, and newspapers assume that a duel is invariably fought over a woman.