Parliament supports plans to improve protection of threatened persons, key witnesses

The Tweede Kamer, the lower house of the Dutch parliament, supports the Cabinet’s plans to improve the security and surveillance of threatened persons. Justice Minister Dilan Yeşilgöz wants to thoroughly review the system because it is not functioning properly, and the police and judiciary are making major and fatal mistakes. The key witness program is also being overhauled because the use of these criminals-turned-witnesses is not going well and poses a lot of danger and risks for the witnesses, their loved ones, and officials.

The Kamer spoke for at least eight hours on Thursday about the harsh conclusions of the Dutch Safety Board (OVV). It investigated the murders of crime journalist Peter R. de Vries, lawyer Derk Wiersum, and Reduan, the brother of Nabil B., the key witness in the extensive Marengo trial around main suspect Ridouan Taghi. Wiersum was B.’s lawyer, and De Vries his confidant.

The OVV found that both the police and the Public Prosecution Service (OM) made mistakes, mainly because they did not share crucial information with each other, so appropriate security measures weren’t taken. To prevent the fragmentation of information from now on, the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism (NCTV) will be the linchpin in the “information puzzle,” Yeşilgöz said. “It will be legally guaranteed that the NCTV receives the information necessary for its role of authority,” the Minister said. The Kamer is particularly concerned about the OM, which shows little self-reflection about its own role.

Yeşilgöz previously apologized to the relatives of the three murdered men for the mistakes made by government services, but she did not say on Thursday whether they’ll receive compensation. She is and will continue to talk to the families, was all she’d say. Most MPs also expressed condolences to the surviving relatives, for whom the report and about it must be brutal.

While the Minister is adopting all the OVV’s recommendations to improve the system, the MPs had doubts about implementing the plans. MPs criticized Yeşilgöz for her lukewarm and late response when the OVV published its report, but the Minister did not face political problems. Only DENK leader Farid Aarkan submitted a motion of no confidence, also on behalf of the Groep-Van Haga. It’s expected to receive little support.

The Minister also responded to a Follow the Money report that the OM shared another key witness’s address detail in a summons to a murder suspect the witness testified against. That should not have happened, Yesilgöz said. The OM’s response to the revelation should also have been “more convenient and empathetic,” the Minister told an outraged Tweede Kamer.

In its response, the OM only told the media that the address involved was old. The entire Tweede Kamer was very critical of that. The SGP spoke of a “laconic and caustic” response, and the parties see it as a signal that the OM still does not feel the urgency and doesn’t see that sharing such possible information is unacceptable and not allowed. Yesilgöz said she understood the criticism and agreed that she would have used different wording. But she assured the Kamer that the OM is fully committed to plans to improve key witness protection.

According to the Minister, this event also shows that it is necessary to record agreements about the rights and obligations of a key witness so that everyone knows what needs to be done. In addition, the OM must introduce more “checks and balances” to prevent secret information from reaching suspects.

The Kamer is very critical of the OM, which also managed to four times include key witness Nabil B.’s photo in files sent to defense lawyers in the Marengo trial.

Reporting by ANP

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