Security of murdered lawyer, crime reporter fragmented, signals missed: Safety Board

The security of threatened persons is fragmented across too many services that don’t share relevant information about what a threat entails well enough, the Dutch Safety Board (OVV) said in a report on the assassinations of Reduan B., Derk Wiersum and Pieter R. de Vries.

According to the OVV, the authorities ignored signals from the three threatened men themselves and those around them because they didn’t regard it as “concrete threat information” that fit into their systems.

The Surveillance and Security service did not receive all the relevant information about the threats against the three victims, the OVV said. It described the sharing of information between the different services in the police and Public Prosecution Services (OM) as a dilemma. “Blocking can lead to risks for people who need protection, while sharing can lead to problems in investigation and prosecution or new unsafe situations because information can be leaked.”

The three murdered men were all directly connected to Nabil B., the key witness in the Marengo assassinations trial against alleged criminal kingpin Ridouan Taghi and the gang around him. Nabil B.’s brother Reduan was gunned down at his Amsterdam business on 20 March 2018 – a week after the OM announced that Nabil had agreed to testify against Taghi and his gang. Derk Wiersum, Nabil B.’s lawyer, was shot dead at his Amsterdam home on 18 September 2019. And crime reporter Pieter R. de Vries, who acted as Nabil B.’s confidant, was shot as he walked to his car after a television broadcast in Amsterdam on 6 July 2021. He died in the hospital over a week later.

All three men received protection from the Surveillance and Security service. “Reduan had insisted on security for his family,” the OVV said. He had no concrete security on him when he was killed, though the police agreed to respond with high priority to any calls from his home or work address. That measure was also in place for Wiersum and De Vries’s home and work addresses. The police monitored Wiersum’s home, and other security measures were taken. De Vries did not want to share his agenda with the police and did not report any dangerous incidents himself, but the police were watching his home, the OVV said.

“No one can guarantee absolute security, not even the government,” the OVV said. But it added that the “government had an extraordinary duty of care for the safety of these persons because the key witness process created security risks for them.”

The Dutch Safety Board recommended that the authorities involve the Surveillance and Security service in future decisions on whether to use a key witness. The service must advise on necessary security measures and its capability to implement them in advance. These measures must also be implemented before the OM announces a key witness deal.

In the event of a threat from serious organized crime, like in these cases, the OVV wants the coordination of surveillance and security to happen nationally and as a main task. The authorities must also share as much relevant information as possible with the security service. “For this reason, it is necessary to improve the information exchange between investigative services and the Surveillance and Security service and to use information from the protected persons better.” The OVV also advised the authorities to adjust its existing system to better assess conceivable threats.

A strained relationship between the authorities and De Vries and Nabil B.’s family did not help matters, the OVV said. “When relational conflicts arise between government and individuals, government parties have an extra responsibility because of their duty of care,” the OVV said. It recommended creating a more solid legal basis for the Surveillance and Security service, which also lays down the rights and obligations of the persons under protection, their employers, and the government.

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