[US Human Rights Abuses] Dutch parliament debates secret CIA prisons

Dutch ties with the US, merely dented or is the damage worse? by Andy Clark in The Hague

Dutch Foreign Minister Ben Bot says he’ll take the lead in getting a European declaration condemning the US practice of using secret CIA prisons in its war on terror. Mr Bot made this clear during an emergency debate held in the Dutch parliament on Wednesday in connection with the revelation that the US has operated clandestine prisons.

Dutch MPs called for the debate as they were furious that Minister Bot was kept in the dark for so long about the existence of the prisons despite repeatedly asking the US about them. The politicians were also angry at the minister’s response once the news became public, last week, claiming that he had been too restrained.

They accused him of being too accepting and now they want him to let the Americans know in no uncertain terms just how angry they are. The most critical parliamentarians say there’s now a break in trust in the relationship between the Netherlands and the US. For Mr Bot, however, the relationship has merely been “dented”.

Clear message

This was his characterisation of the damage done to relations between the Netherlands and the US following the revelations about the CIA camps. ‘This isn’t the way allies should deal with each other’, was the clear message.

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During Wednesday’s debate Minister Bot said he was immensely disappointed that he hadn’t been taken into the confidence of the Americans and he reiterated his total opposition to the practice of using secret detention camps, which he says, are in breach with international law. However, he rejected criticism from MPs who accused him of being too ready to accept earlier US refusals to confirm or deny the existence of the camps.

Mr Bot said he had repeatedly pressed US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the issue and had also worked with the Council of Europe and the European parliament to press the US to come clean. He added that this had produced no results, since the US went on saying nothing until President Bush’s statement last week in which he finally confirmed the existence of such detention centres.


Bert Koenders of the main opposition Labour Party wasn’t entirely satisfied with the explanation from Mr Bot, and commented:

“I still think the minister – along with other ministers in the European Union – has been overly naïve. Basically what President Bush has said is that, with slight differences, we will continue this policy – and that harms our struggle against terrorism.”

Mr Koenders now wants the minister to pressure the US to abandon such practices in the future by working within NATO, the EU and the UN Human Rights Council. Minister Bot agreed with the EU and NATO approach, but said taking the issue to the UN Human Rights Council would be going too far.


Hans van Baalen of the conservative VVD party – the junior party in the current Dutch coalition government – was also critical but emphasised the need for continued co-operation with the US.

“The bottom line is we can’t fight terrorism without the United States. We have to question the methods of the United States time and again, but I see changes in Congress and I see changes in the legal opinion of the Supreme Court and I see the same happening amongst the citizens of the US – so things are changing but it takes time.”

MPs from the Socialist Party and the D66 progressive liberal party sought to broaden the debate by asking for an inquiry into the decision which led the Netherlands to support the Iraq war. This, too, was a question of trust between the US and the Netherlands, they said, as the information which led to support for the war came largely from the US and much of it had since been shown to be wrong. Opposition parties are backing the move, but there’s little chance of them gaining a majority in parliament.

What all parties did agree on was that the Dutch government should do everything in its power to press the US to stop using secret prisons. The US has, however, made it perfectly clear that nothing will get in the way of its war on terror. Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Volker said while visiting the Netherlands earlier this week that the CIA would use the secret camps all over again if it thought this necessary.

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(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Radio Netherlands, USA
Sep. 13, 2006
Andy Clark

Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday September 14, 2006.
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