Dutch parliament backs new anti-terror laws
A majority in the Dutch parliament has just voted for controversial measures which will allow for people to be banned from certain areas, or require them to report to the police at specified times, despite having committed no crime.
A majority in the Dutch parliament has just voted for controversial measures which will allow for people to be banned from certain areas, or mean they will have to report to the police at specified times. This, despite the fact that they have committed no crime.
Unlike its European counterparts the United Kingdom and Spain, the Netherlands has been spared a major terrorist attack, but the murder of film director and outspoken critic of Islam Theo van Gogh by a 'Jihadi' terrorist in November 2004 also put Dutch society on edge much like British and Spanish society following the terrorist bomb outrages in those countries.
The discovery and subsequent prosecution of a radical Islamic terrorist network, the Hofstad Group, added to the feeling of angst that the Netherlands could be next on the European hit list. This, of course, all came in the wake of 11 September 2001, which had already sparked talk of how to lessen the threat of attacks here.
The latest preventive measures come against this backdrop, and Ernst Hirsch Ballin - the Dutch Justice Minister - explains how they are meant to work: "The freedom to move to places where they can be a danger to public security and to people or specific persons can be limited. This not something like administrative detention - that is not included in our legislation - but we are confident that it will support the fight against terrorist crimes in an appropriate manner."
So, in simple terms the new legislation will stop people suspected by the police and intelligence services being at a certain place at a certain time, in the vicinity of a certain building or person. Suspects can also be made to report to a police station on a regular basis.
Arend Jan Boekestijn is a member of the conservative VVD party has the following to say regarding whether or not the Netherlands is under a real threat of terrorism:
"Unfortunately it is. If you look at the recent reports of the AIVD, our intelligence service, they estimate that something like 100 to 200 people have thoughts that are not completely coherent with the rule of law."
Mr Boekestijn is, therefore, very much in favour of the new move, although he admits that there's a trade off between security and legal rights. However, he thinks there has to be more of a shift in the direction of security.
Step too far?
A number of high profile politicians have been threatened here in the Netherlands in the last few years and have had to receive 24-hour police protection. This is still the case for Geert Wilders, the leader of the extreme right-wing Party for Freedom. His outspoken criticism of Islam has resulted in numerous death threats, and his party wants even stronger measures to be taken when it comes to anti-terror laws. But others - the left wing parties - think the measures now in place are already a step too far.
Jan de Wit is from the biggest opposition party in parliament, the Socialist Party:"The SP believes that there isn't enough legal protection in this. Essentially, the person involved would never know the reason for the limitations on their movement being put in place. That is enough for us to be against this."
The new moves are the latest in a series of measures put in place in the last few years to help try and combat the threat of terrorism. These include greater powers to gather information for the security services, and tougher sentences for terrorist crimes.
22 March 2007
by Andy Clark in The Hague
Published with the permission of Radio Netherlands
[Copyright Radio Netherlands Worldwide 2007]