War crimes allegations
After allegations emerged that Dutch Military Intelligence personnel had ill-treated several detainees in Al-Muthana province in Iraq in 2003, the Minister of Defence confirmed in November that an independent committee would examine the interrogation methods used by the Military Intelligence and Security Services in Iraq at that time, including the use of ski goggles, loud music or noise, and water. The Ministry of Defence subsequently confirmed that these methods had been used.
It also emerged that, as early as November 2003, the Royal Military and Border Police had investigated the treatment of suspects by the Military Intelligence and Security Services, and that the prosecuting authorities concluded in 2004 that no offence had been committed. No information about the allegations or investigations had previously been provided to Parliament or the public.
The standing Review Committee on the Intelligence and Security Services announced a separate investigation.
Imprisonment following refoulement
• In June, Syrian national 'Abd al-Rahman al-Musa was sentenced to death for membership of the Muslim Brotherhood after an unfair trial before the Syrian Supreme State Security Court. The Dutch authorities had failed to prevent his expulsion from the USA to Syria via the Netherlands in January 2005, or to allow him to exercise his right to file an asylum application despite warnings about his safety. His death sentence was immediately commuted to 12 years' imprisonment. He was reportedly held incommunicado for most of his detention, but was eventually allowed some family visits. AI considered him a prisoner of conscience, held solely for his non-violent beliefs. In May the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention found his detention to be arbitrary, given "the gravity of the violation of the right to a fair trial".
New legislation with the stated aim of countering terrorism was officially published in November, but had not entered into force by the end of 2006. It provided for an increase in the maximum period of pre-trial detention for people charged with terrorism offences, from 104 days to a further period of up to two years, and for the prosecution not to be obliged to fully disclose evidence during this further period. Under the legislation, the detainee would have the right to periodically challenge both the detention and the decision not to disclose evidence.
In September, the government proposed measures that would make it easier to withdraw residence permits from non-nationals convicted of any crime. This could increase the number of those designated as "undesirable aliens". Non-nationals thus designated could be deported, banned from re-entry for up to 10 years, or imprisoned for up to six months if they remain in the country. If suspected of terrorism, they could be designated on the basis of secret intelligence withheld from them and their lawyers.
Deaths and detentions of migrants
Migrant children continued to be detained in accordance with unchanged government policy, although the numbers appeared to decline following nationwide protests.
• In September the independent Dutch Safety Board reported on its investigation into the October 2005 fire in a temporary detention centre at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport in which 11 irregular migrants died and 15 other people were injured. The Board confirmed earlier concerns about unsafe detention conditions and found that safety recommendations had not been fully implemented, that guards lacked training and intervened inappropriately, and that other detention centres had similar deficiencies. It concluded that "there would have been fewer or no casualties if fire safety was taken more seriously by the government authorities responsible". Following publication of the report, the Ministers of Justice and Housing resigned. Their successors announced reorganization of government departments, strengthened fire safety regulations, and offered to discuss compensation for the victims. The criminal investigation into the cause of the fire continued. In April the Board criticized the Minister of Immigration for the expulsion of survivors and other witnesses before they could be interviewed. Shortly before publication of its report, most survivors still in the country were granted residence permits.
AI country reports/visits
• The Netherlands: Concerns about Schiphol fire need urgent follow up (AI Index: EUR 35/001/2006)