Green light for anti-terror mission
11 March 2005, AMSTERDAM — Main opposition party Labour PvdA has refused to back a new mission in which Dutch soldiers will join US and British forces in the hunt for al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan.
11 March 2005
AMSTERDAM — Main opposition party Labour PvdA has refused to back a new mission in which Dutch soldiers will join US and British forces in the hunt for al-Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan.
PvdA MP Bert Koenders said the mission represented a break from a tradition in which the Netherlands always operated within the bounds of international law. The green-left GroenLinks and Socialist SP parties also withheld approval from the new mission.
Despite the opposition, the Cabinet gained majority support with the Christian Democrat CDA, Liberal VVD, Democrat D66 and populist LPF all voting in favour of the troop deployment. The coalition government failed however to gain the overwhelming backing it was hoping for.
It is customary in the Netherlands that the cabinet seeks convincing majority support for military operations that involve great risks for the troops involved, news service NOS reported on Thursday.
The cabinet decided last month to dispatch 165 commandos and 85 military police and helicopter personnel to Afghanistan. They will be deployed as part of the Enduring Freedom mission launched by the US after the 11 September terrorist attacks.
Although the majority parliamentary support means that the soldiers will be sent to Afghanistan in the coming weeks, MPs remain concerned by that fact that any suspects arrested by Dutch troops will be sent to the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
The legal rights of prisoners at Guantanamo have been subject to international criticism, prompting concerns from Dutch MPs. The parliament has also expressed alarm about reports of torture at Guantanamo Bay and the fact that Dutch-detained suspects could also be subjected to similar interrogation techniques.
Liberal VVD MP Hans van Baalen demanded that detainees be treated humanely, but he did not reject the notion they will be sent to Guantanamo. "I prefer to have the terrorists in Guantanamo Bay than in the Laakkwartier in The Hague," he said, referring to the two suspected terrorists arrested in The Hague last November.
Foreign Minister Ben Bot also told MPs that he had reached an agreement with the US deputy defence secretary Paul Wolfowitz that Dutch experts would enter into discussions with US authorities about Guantanamo Bay.
The parliament was also concerned about the legal status of soldiers involved in the anti-terror operation. They are concerned the troops will be confronted with both US and British rules of violent engagement.
MPs want to avoid a similar situation to that in which marine Erik O. was arrested in Iraq in December 2003 after an Iraqi man was allegedly shot and killed in a looting incident.
Charges of murder or manslaughter against O. were eventually dropped, but the prosecutor has appealed against his October 2004 acquittal of breaching military rules of engagement.
Defence Minister Henk Kamp said specialist Dutch troops to be deployed in Afghanistan will operate under Dutch regulations. He also said detailed agreements had been reached with the Public Prosecution Office (OM).
Discussions were sparked earlier this week after Dutch military union AFMP raised concerns about the legal position of the troops.
It also questioned the fact that Dutch troops are involved in two conflicting missions in Afghanistan; namely the peacekeeping duties with the Nato-led stabilisation force and the new anti-terror mission.
MPs also backed on Thursday night the deployment of four F-16 fighter jets in Afghanistan. They will replace the Apache combat helicopters the Netherlands has already deployed on peacekeeping duties in the central Asian nation.
[Copyright Expatica News 2005]
Subject: Dutch news