Dutch news in brief, Monday 7 September 2009
Read the roundup of today's Dutch press from Radio Netherlands.Dutch commando killed in Afghanistan
Monday papers report the death of 26-year-old Corporal Kevin van de Rijdt who is the 20th Dutch soldier to be killed in Afghanistan.
Corporal van de Rijdt - the first casualty sustained by the Dutch commando corps – was killed on Sunday in a gun battle with Taliban insurgents north of the town of Deh Rawod.
A relatively small unit of commandos was patrolling the area to test the strength of the Taliban stationed in the town located outside the main force’s sphere of influence.
In de Volkskrant, General Peter van Uhm said the area is repeatedly used to plan attacks on foreign and Afghan forces. He said it was “vital to the success of the mission” that operations are continued in areas where NATO forces and their Afghan allies cannot maintain a permanent presence.
“We seek out the enemy in areas where they feel safe”.
The Dutch defence ministry says pressure on Uruzgan province – where the Dutch troops are stationed – has increased as a result of an offensive by British and US forces in neighbouring Helmand province.
Tax office hit by mega-fraud
The AD reports that since 2007 the tax office has missed out on millions of euros as a result of large-scale fraud involving preliminary tax rebates.
In the Netherlands, people who know in advance they will get money back from the tax office are entitled to a monthly rebate. An investigation of thousands of tax forms, launched as the result of a tip-off, showed that all suspect forms where sent from one computer.
A 55-year-old accountant from Amsterdam allegedly falsified tax forms for about 6,000 people. The man increased the amount of income tax his clients had paid by several thousands of euros, making them eligible for monthly payments of preliminary tax rebates.
For some people, he even claimed a tax break for mortgage interest payments, even though they did not own a house.
All 6,000 people involved in the fraud will have to pay back the rebate plus a 100-percent fine. The fraudulent accountant is facing criminal charges.
Too many centres for balloon angioplasty
Trouw reports that a professor argues that the Netherlands is too small for the current number of 22 centres for balloon angioplasty.
This is a procedure in which a balloon is placed in the artery to relieve narrowing.
However, in the Nederlands Tijdschrift voor Geneeskunde (Dutch Medical Journal) Professor Van der Graaf – clinical epidemiologist at the Utrecht University hospital – writes that the number of centres is already too high to meet current quality standards.
The professor says there is a serious risk that cardiologists do not see enough patients and therefore do not get enough experience. As a result there are additional complications and fatalities.
The number of centres for balloon angioplasty is expected to grow as Health Minister Ab Klink is planning to scrap the requirement for a permit. The minister says the procedure has become standard and therefore no longer needs special legal protection. He believes health insurers will keep an eye on quality.
The professor lashes out at hospitals and cardiologists who “expect to make a lot of money” from large numbers of balloon angioplasty procedures and may let their own interests prevail over those of their patients.
She also points to a US study showing that inadequate experience with the procedure leads to twice as many fatalities.
In the Netherlands, this would mean an additional 200 deaths a year. Parliament is debating the minister’s proposal on Thursday.
The Hague is a safe haven for war criminals
De Pers reports “diplomatic pressure and inadequate legislation have made the Netherlands a safe haven for war criminals”.
The free newspaper writes that despite Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin’s strong-worded statement that the country should not be a safe haven for war criminals, their number is actually growing.
At present more than 350 asylum seekers suspected of war crimes are living in the Netherlands, and it is proving nearly impossible to prosecute them. In the past six years, only five have faced trial. Three of them - a Congolese and two Afghans – have been convicted.
De Pers cites the example of Dutchman Frans van Anraat, who was indicted for complicity in genocide in Iraq. When the then public prosecutor Fred Teeven wanted to travel to Iran to gather evidence, he was obstructed by the foreign ministry because the Netherlands does not have close ties with Iran.
In addition the interior ministry wanted to protect Frans Anraat, as he had provided information to the Dutch intelligence service, and the ministry.
Fred Teeven, at present an MP for the conservative VVD party, said he could not discuss the case because of professional secrecy. However, he added: “Diplomatic considerations and domestic security play a role in the prosecution of war criminals. These are pitfalls which, to put it mildly, do nothing to expedite prosecution”.
Public Prosecutor Ward Ferdinandusse, a member of the justice ministry’s International Crimes Team, denies experiencing any pressure from above. He puts most of the blame on inadequate laws.
In 2003, the Law of International Crimes, was introduced to facilitate prosecution for serious violations of international humanitarian laws. However, it has never been applied because most crimes were committed prior to its introduction.
Dutch women’s football team lose EC semi-finals
Trouw publishes a photograph of devastated Dutch defender, Manoe Meulen, squatting on the pitch, after failing to stop the deciding English goal.
The Netherlands lost 1-2 against the English women’s football team in the semi-finals of the European Championship in the Finnish town of Tampere.
According to Trouw, the Dutch women “did not bow to the more skilfully playing British team until the final phase of extra time”.
Nevertheless coach Vera Pauw was pleased: “We did exceedingly well. It’s really no disgrace losing to England in the semi-finals”.
Radio Netherlands / Jacqueline Carver / Expatica