Nederland in de ‘Country Reports on Terrorism 2009’

Het Amerikaanse ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken heeft afgelopen week de jaarlijkse ‘Country Reports on Terrorism‘ gepubliceerd.

Er staat ook een hoofdstuk in over de ontwikkelingen op terrorismegebied in Nederland. De informatie in dat deel is grotendeels afkomstig van de Nationaal Coördinator Terrorismebestrijding.

Verder valt er een intigrerende zin op in de inleiding over Europa: “The level of threat in Western Europe remained high, particularly in the Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, France, the United Kingdom, and Belgium.” (pagina 63)  Omdat dit zestal landen niet in alfabetische volgorde wordt genoemd zou de lezer kunnen denken dat het dreigingsniveau vorig jaar in Nederland hoger was dan in de andere genoemde landen. Navraag gedaan bij het State Department. Het antwoord: “The order does not reflect a descending or ascending threat level.” Met andere woorden: de volgorde heeft geen bijzondere betekenis (je zou denken, noem de landen dan in alfabetische volgorde, maar goed).

Onderstaand het hoofdstuk over ontwikkelingen op terrorismegebied in Nederland in 2009.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands continued its response to the global terrorist threat with leadership and energy in the areas of border and transportation security, terrorist financing, bilateral counterterrorism cooperation, and Coalition efforts in Afghanistan. The Netherlands had 1,800 troops deployed in Afghanistan as part of the International Security Assistance Force. The Dutch led a Provincial Reconstruction team in Uruzgan province, commanded NATO‘s efforts in southern Afghanistan through November, and contributed approximately US$ 95 million in development aid for Afghanistan. The Netherlands maintained five trainers supporting the NATO Training Mission in Iraq, rotated officials for the EU rule of law mission in Iraq, and dedicated naval resources to the counter-piracy efforts off the coast of Somalia.

In its December 2009 quarterly terrorism threat analysis, the Dutch National Counterterrorism Coordinator (NCTb) lowered the national threat level to “limited” from “substantial”, meaning chances of an attack in the Netherlands or against Dutch interests were relatively small but could not be ruled out entirely (The Netherlands has four threat levels: minimum, limited, substantial and critical). The NCTb attributed the reduced threat level to the fact that the Netherlands was less in the picture of international terrorist organizations as a specific “preferred target.” The NCTb also noted that al-Qa‘ida‘s (AQ) power to strike in Europe was less than a year ago. The NCTb believed that the threat of an attack against Dutch interests abroad was greater in countries and regions where groups affiliated with AQ were more active than in the Netherlands itself. According to the NCTb, the growth of domestic extremist networks seems to have decreased in recent years as a result of increased resistance to extremists within Muslim communities in the Netherlands.

The NCTb also cited a report by the General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) showing that the growth of the Salafist movement in the Netherlands was stagnating, partly as a result of increased resistance by Muslims in the Netherlands to the anti-integration message of Salafist centers. Another factor that appeared to play a role was that, in the eyes of believers, some preachers are not sufficiently applying the doctrines they teach in their personal lives. According to the NCTb, the puritanical lifestyle, which demands considerable personal sacrifices and the limited scope for independent thinking, causes orthodox Muslims to leave the movement.

The Justice Ministry‘s “Netherlands against Terrorism” campaign continued in 2009, with a particular focus on prevention of radicalization. A study commissioned by the City of Amsterdam concluded in October that the two-day training sessions given to professionals on how to recognize and handle radicalization were effective. The government‘s terrorism alert system, which became operational in June 2005, now includes fourteen economic sectors: the financial sector, seaports, airports, drinking water, railway, natural gas, oil, electricity, nuclear, chemical, municipal and regional transport, hotels, public events, and tunnels and flood defense systems.

In November, the Foreign Minister announced plans to establish an international counterterrorism institute in The Hague. The institute is to focus on ways to prevent terrorism; strengthen and supplement international legal architecture for countering terrorism; and the relationship between counterterrorism policy, human rights, the rule of law, and international humanitarian law. The institute is to become an independent hub in the international counterterrorism network that includes academics, policy makers, and law enforcers from Europe, the United States, Asia, and the Middle East. It will also be engaged in prevention research, training, and will organize international symposia.

One major terrorism-related appeal case was still pending a Supreme Court ruling at year‘s end. In February 2008, the public prosecutor‘s office in The Hague appealed the verdict by the appeals court of The Hague that acquitted the seven members of the Hofstad terrorist group of participating in a criminal and terrorist organization.

In November, the appeals court in The Hague sentenced two former associates of convicted terrorist Samir Azzouz to an unconditional prison sentence of 104 and 74 days, respectively, which is equal to the time they served in pre-trial detention.

In September, the national prosecutor‘s office released four men from The Hague who were arrested in Kenya in July on suspicion of preparing a terrorist attack. The four suspects allegedly were travelling in a rented truck to an al-Shabaab terrorist training camp in Somalia. According to the prosecutor‘s office, there was insufficient evidence to detain them any longer. However, the four – two Dutch nationals of Moroccan origin, one of Somali origin, and a Moroccan national with a Dutch residence permit – remained suspects and the police investigation continued.

In November, the Dutch police, at the request of U.S. law enforcement authorities, arrested Somali terrorist suspect Mahamud Said Omar in a center for asylum seekers. Omar, a Somali citizen granted permanent U.S. resident status in 1994, is suspected of financing weapons for terrorists and helping young men travel from Minneapolis to Somalia to train with and fight for al-Shabaab. U.S. authorities have requested Omar‘s extradition.

On December 25, Nigerian national Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab unsuccessfully attempted to detonate an explosive device on a Northwest Airlines flight from Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam to Detroit. His attempt was foiled by an alert Dutch passenger, and he, the aircraft crew, and other passengers quickly subdued the suspect. Abdulmutallab arrived at Schiphol from Lagos where, after spending roughly an hour in the transfer area, he was subjected to the standard U.S. government-required security screening for U.S.-bound flights. Al-Qa‘ida in the Arabian Peninsula later claimed responsibility for the failed attempt.

Dutch officials remained committed to active cooperation with the United States in designating known terrorist organizations and interdicting and freezing their assets, and supported the continued exchange of information on financial transactions. The Dutch government worked with the United States to emphasize the importance of balancing security and the effectiveness of the financial system. In July, the Netherlands assumed Presidency of the Financial Action Task Force for a one-year period.

In July, following the recommendations of a committee that investigated ways to improve the cohesion of Dutch counterterrorism legislation, the government decided to initiate an external investigation into the cohesion, legitimacy, effectiveness, and operational practicality of Dutch counterterrorism laws and regulations. The committee concluded that many counterterrorism laws passed in recent years overlap and might even be in conflict with fundamental human rights. The committee noted a general lack of guidelines for coordinating government action in the event of terrorist incidents and concluded that cooperation between departments was the vulnerable point. In line with the committee‘s recommendations, Justice Minister Hirsch Ballin requested the Upper House of Parliament defer action on the Bill on Administrative National Security Measures, which would have allowed the Interior Minister to issue restraining orders to prohibit a terrorist suspect‘s physical proximity to specific locations or persons.

In June, a bill became effective making participation and cooperation in a terrorist training camp a serious punishable offense, even if the training takes place outside the Netherlands.

The Netherlands continued its strong commitment to effective cooperation with the United States on border security issues. In April, Justice Minister Hirsch Ballin and U.S. authorities performed the opening of the new FLUX (Fast Low Risk Universal Crossing) system at JFK airport enabling registered travelers between Amsterdam and a number of U.S. airports to go straight through U.S. immigration controls using iris scanners. FLUX was an initiative of the Dutch Justice Ministry and the Department of Homeland Security.

In December, the FBI hosted the Netherlands Police Agency (KLPD) for the second counterterrorism “Experts Meeting” in Washington, D.C. During the meeting, experts from the FBI and KLPD presented topics of mutual interest and concern to both the United States and the Netherlands. The meeting was the result of recommendations from the 2007 “Agreed Steps”  meeting. The first “Experts Meeting” was hosted by the KLPD in the Netherlands in November 2008.

Over Hans de Vreij

Retired Dutch journalist. Covered EU, NATO, UN, security & defense. Was correspondent in Berlin, Brussels, Geneva, Prague. Studied Russian language & literature.
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