Dutch to get tougher with war crimes suspects

9th June 2008, Comments 0 comments

The government hopes new measures will allow them to bring war criminals who have escaped to Netherlands to trial.

9 June 2008

The Dutch government wants to get tougher with suspected war criminals who flee to the Netherlands hoping to evade justice.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office will make greater efforts in future to bring such people to trial or to see that they are sent back to their countries of origin.

The new draft will be sent to the lower house of parliament on Monday by Minister of Justice Ernst Hirsch Ballin and Deputy Justice Minister Nebahat Albayrak. The ministers hope this tougher approach will prevent the Netherlands from coming to be regarded as a safe haven for foreigners wanted for war crimes committed abroad.

All the measures will, in principle, also apply to the immediate relatives of such asylum seekers, although an exception will be made for mothers and children who have resided in the country for at least 10 years.

These individuals may still qualify for a residence permit, as the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND) will henceforth not consider the allegations or charges made against a husband or father when evaluating their residence applications.

In the past ten years, around 700 people who sought asylum in the Netherlands have been earmarked as being potential war crimes suspects. Of this group – mainly made up of people from Afghanistan – around 350 are known to be still living in the Netherlands, while 120 have been deported.

The authorities do not know what has happened to the remaining group of around 230, although a significant number are believed to have the left the country.  

With so many of the people in the group of suspected war criminals coming from Afghanistan, the justice ministers have said that efforts will be made with Kabul authorities to agree to the return of Afghan nationals deported from the Netherlands. Similar arrangements will also be sought with other countries.

The department in charge of handling the deportation of failed asylum seekers from the Netherlands will also be given extra staff to cope with the work load.

When it comes to actually trying such suspects in the Netherlands, the Public Prosecutor’s Office and IND are to co-operate more closely on aspects such as trying to get other establish refugees in the Netherlands from, for example, Afghanistan to testify in war crimes cases heard before Dutch courts.

At present, evidence in such criminal cases mainly has to be obtained in the country where the crimes were committed, and this is often a highly complicated process.   

[Radio Netherlands / Expatica]

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