International Crimes Act
In the Netherlands this is done on the basis of the 2003 International Crimes Act. Initially, genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture were punishable. Later, enforced disappearances and assaults were added.
“What limits the Netherlands to a certain extent is that there must always be a link with the Netherlands”, explains Thijs Bouwknegt. He is a researcher at the NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies. “This means that a foreign suspect must be present in the Netherlands or in another part of the Kingdom or that the victim or perpetrator of an international crime abroad is a Dutch national.”
This is an important difference with Germany, where the law is interpreted more broadly and there is not necessarily such a personal connection with Germany to prosecute someone.
The International Crimes Team is a special police unit which, together with specialized public prosecutors (OM), conducts investigations and prosecutions against those suspected of having committed genocide, crimes against humanity, crimes of war and acts of torture. Bouwknegt: “It’s a team of around 30 to 40 detectives, also known as the war investigation.”
This team has had some success in the past. For example, they have succeeded in convicting war criminals from Rwanda, Afghanistan and Ethiopia.
No access to crime scenes
It is therefore legally possible to prosecute the accomplices of President Assad’s regime in the Netherlands. NRC concluded At the end of last year after months of investigation, dozens of former Assad regime accomplices are living as refugees in the Netherlands. Yet these people are currently not prosecuted, OM said in a response to the NOS:
“For the moment, no accomplice of the Syrian regime is being prosecuted. The investigations which have been initiated have not yet resulted in criminal proceedings. These investigations are often complicated. It has to do with crimes committed abroad and in war situations. The police cannot investigate in Syria. “