Dutch taxpayers’ money to war criminals in Syria

This 11 September 2018 Dutch TV video says about itself:

The Netherlands supported terrorists in Syria – (NLA program)

Research done by Nieuwsuur TV show and Trouw daily has shown that the Netherlands supports armed rebels in Syria. Non-lethal material was secretly transported via the Turkish border into Syria to support the “moderate” rebels (Jabhat al-Shamiya).

From Dutch NOS TV, 26 September 2018:

The Netherlands was aware of abuses by Syrian rebels

The Dutch government was aware of the crimes committed by the Syrian rebel movement Jabhat al-Shamiya. This is evident from an email exchange in the summer of 2016 between Amnesty International and the Foreign Affairs department, which has been seen by Nieuwsuur and Trouw. Despite this knowledge and the promise to parliament that they would not support human rights violators in Syria, the government decided to send Jabhat al-Shamiya logistical supplies in 2017.

The human rights violations of the Dutch-backed group Jabhat al-Shamiya are described in the Amnesty report ‘Torture was my punishment’ of 5 July 2016. In this report, Amnesty describes the crimes committed by five armed opposition groups between 2012 and 2016 in northern Syria. One of the five groups is Jabhat al-Shamiya, who according to Amnesty International executes executions, kidnaps civilians and runs ‘sharia courts‘ where people get the death penalty for apostasy [from the fanatical Saudi government version of Islam].

Amnesty repeatedly brought the report to the attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after the publication, according to the mail exchange. The contents of the report, including the name Jabhat al-Shamiya and the crimes committed by this group according to Amnesty, were known to the ministry.

Was it legally justified what the Netherlands did in Syria? André Nollkaemper is the external international law advisor to the cabinet, but he has never been consulted. …

He now says that the Dutch government possibly violated international law.

Amnesty International spoke verbally with Syria envoy Gerard Steeghs and his staff at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 9 August 2016 about that report. In addition, Amnesty handed out several printed copies. Later that day, Amnesty sent one last e-mail to Steegh’s employees with the digital version of the report.

In contact with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Amnesty asked the then minister Bert Koenders to use his influence to encourage countries that supported Jabhat al-Shamiya at that time to immediately stop this assistance. Amnesty did not only refer to support in the form of weapons, but also specifically to logistical support. A year later, the Dutch government decided to support the group itself with logistical help, such as pick-up trucks and uniforms.

The fact that the Dutch government had knowledge of Amnesty’s research is also apparent from a committee meeting between MPs and then Minister Koenders of 7 July 2016, which took place two days after publication of the report. PvdA Member of Parliament Angelien Eijsink then asked Minister Koenders to respond to the ‘vehement report’. Koenders calls the Amnesty report “terrible” and says that the human rights organization rightly draws attention to the abuses. “You can always say it is politically inconvenient, but human rights violations are human rights violations.”

An abundance of information

The Amnesty researcher who drew up the report, Diana Semaan, has been shocked by the news that the Netherlands provided Jabhat al-Shamiya with logistical support. “That the Dutch government supported this group, despite the abundance of information about how the group violated international humanitarian law, is shocking to say the least.”

Earlier, it turned out that Dutch UN ambassador, Karel van Oosterom, was aware of the human rights violations committed by the government-backed combat groups in Syria. The Netherlands had a seat in the UN Human Rights Council and from that capacity regular contact with the UN committee that investigated war crimes in Syria. Former member of this committee, Carla del Ponte, stated that Van Oosterom knew “in detail” about the UN report that warned about the Sultan Murad Brigade that it said oppressed residents in Aleppo.

The Netherlands supported 22 combat groups in Syria between May 2015 and March 2018. The government promised the House of Representatives that it would only support ‘moderate’ groups that would comply with international humanitarian law and would not cooperate with extremists. In case of signs of human rights violations or ‘other undesirable behavior’, Dutch support would be ‘immediately stopped’, the guarantee was to the House of Representatives.

Syria envoy Gerard Steeghs did not want to respond to questions by Nieuwsuur and Trouw.

8 thoughts on “Dutch taxpayers’ money to war criminals in Syria

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