"This case involves some of the most serious criminal acts ruled on by Dutch criminal courts since the end of World War II."
(Ruling by the Court of Appeal, the Hague in the 2001 case against Joseph M.)
War crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, torture and enforced disappearances: international crimes and offenses of the most serious sort. The Dutch government believes that such crimes must be investigated and the guilty parties brought to justice. The Dutch Police's International Crimes Team, in partnership with the National Public Prosecutors' Office, carries out criminal investigations into international crimes committed by or against Dutch nationals or persons in the Netherlands.
Witnesses to international crimes: Report them!
Your experiences in your home country can help bring criminals to justice. Perhaps you are aware of victims or perpetrators of international crimes currently in the Netherlands. This information can help us greatly in our efforts to combat international crimes.
The term "international crime" is a collective term for certain extremely serious violations of international law: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and enforced disappearances. Other heinous crimes like slavery, piracy, and aircraft hijacking, are not considered international crimes, despite their having an international component.
Article 3 of the Dutch International Crimes Act defines a person guilty of genocide as follows:
Anyone who, with the intention of destroying a particular group wholly or in part, be the group national, ethnic, or religious in nature, or a group belonging to a particular race, does the following:
a. kills members of the group;
b. inflicts grievous bodily or psychological harm on members of the group;
c. intentionally forces living conditions on the group that are aimed at the whole or partial destruction of the group;
d. imposes measures which have the aim of preventing births within the group; or
e. forcibly transfers children from the group to another group.
The criminal act or acts only constitute genocide if the person has committed the crime(s) in question with the intent to eradicate a particular group.
In recent history, genocide has occurred in a number of countries. One of these is Rwanda. In 1994, an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed within a span of one hundred days by government militias, Hutu militias, and others. Because the aim was to wipe out Tutsi population, this constitutes genocide. Genocide has also taken place in the Netherlands, namely during World War II.
Dutch criminal cases involving suspected genocide include the case against Frans van A. (Iraq) and the case against Yvonne B. (Rwanda).
War crimes are violations of the laws and customs of warfare. These laws and customs establish how force may be used in wartime ("armed conflict") and are intended to protect those who are not involved in the fighting. In Dutch law, these rules are laid down in the Wartime Offenses Act (for war crimes committed prior to 2003 or in any war in which the Netherlands was involved) and in Articles 5 through 7 of the International Crimes Act. Examples of war crimes are plundering, rape, and summarily executing civilians or prisoners of war - crimes committed during wartime.
History holds countless examples of war and some wars are still going on today. Prominent examples of such armed conflict include the wars in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Afghanistan. One example of a Dutch criminal case involving suspected war crimes is the case against Habibullah J. (Afghanistan).
Crimes against humanity
Article 4 of the International Crimes Act addresses crimes against humanity. It defines them as crimes committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack on the civilian population. Examples of crimes against humanity include the deportation or forcible transfer of a population, torture, enslavement, rape, forced prostitution or any other comparably grave form of sexual violence, and murder.
In the Netherlands, these crimes were only made punishable as such with the passage of the International Crimes Act in October 2003. For this reason, individuals may only be criminally prosecuted under the Dutch legislation for crimes against humanity committed on or after 1 October 2003.
A concrete example of crimes against humanity is the system of apartheid supported by the government of South Africa between 1948 and 1990. No cases of crimes against humanity have been brought before Dutch courts to date.
Torture is prohibited by Dutch law in the Torture Convention Implementation Act (which covers acts of torture committed between 1989-2003) and Articles 1-8 of the International Crimes Act (which covers acts of torture committed on or after 1 October 2003).
In short, torture refers to the intentional infliction of severe physical or mental pain by a public official (or with the consent of a public official). The perpetrator must have a specific purpose, such as obtaining information or a confession from the victim, or for reasons of discrimination or to incite fear in the victim. Dutch criminal cases involving suspected torture include the case against Sébastian N. (Congo) and the case against Hesamuddin H. (Afghanistan).
As of 2011, enforced disappearances have been punishable under Articles 4 and 8a of the Dutch International Crimes Act. The law defines "enforced disappearance" as follows:
the arrest, detention, or abduction of persons by, or with the authorization, support, or acquiescence of a State or a political organization, followed by a refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom, or to give information on the fate or whereabouts of those persons, with the intention of removing them from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time.
No cases involving these crimes against humanity have been brought before Dutch courts to date.
International crimes are crimes of the most serious sort. Such grave crimes must be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice, wherever they may be and regardless of nationality. In the Netherlands, we want to ensure that victims of international crimes who seek asylum in this country will not be confronted with the criminals from whom they have fled. The International Crimes Team has the task of finding and prosecuting these criminals.
Investigating and prosecuting suspects
The Dutch Police's International Crimes Team, in partnership with the National Public Prosecutors' Office, is responsible for finding and prosecuting those guilty of genocide, war crimes, torture, or crimes against humanity. The crimes may be committed by or against Dutch nationals or persons in the Netherlands. Past investigations, for instance, have involved Afghan, Dutch, and Rwandan nationals. The International Crimes Team is part of the Dutch National Crime Squad.
Extraditing suspects to other countries
In addition to investigating and prosecuting suspected criminals, the Netherlands also extradites suspects, which entails sending an individual suspected of a crime to another country to be tried or to serve out a sentence. In 2010, for example, the Netherlands extradited the Dutch national Senad A. to Bosnia-Herzegovina, where he was sentenced in 2011 to eight years in prison for his involvement in war crimes committed in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1993.
Handing over suspects to international tribunals
The International Crimes Team can also detain persons in the Netherlands who are sought by international tribunals and then hand them over to the tribunal. This was the case with Simon B. and Ephrem S., for example. They were arrested in the Netherlands, then handed over to the Rwanda Tribunal. Both have now been sentenced to prison for their crimes.
Turning over criminal cases
If the International Crimes Team has carried out an investigation and the suspect turns out to be currently located in another country, we can turn over the investigation files, the information detected thus far, and the further prosecution to that country.
After the Yugoslavia tribunal was established in 1994, the National Investigation Team for Yugoslavian War Crimes was formed in the Netherlands
After the Yugoslavia tribunal was established in 1994, the National Investigation Team for Yugoslavian War Crimes was formed in the Netherlands. In 1998, this team became the broader National Investigation Team for War Crimes (NOVO), which focused on other countries as well. Both teams were led by the Arnhem Public Prosecution Service's team for Wartime Offenses. On 1 September 2002, the Rotterdam Public Prosecution Service took over leadership of NOVO. And in 2003, the NOVO team became the National Crime Squad's International Crimes Team.
Investigating and prosecuting those guilty of genocide, war crimes, torture, or crimes against humanity is a highly complex undertaking. These criminal cases can best be described as cold cases on an international scale. The crimes often took place in the past, in a distant land, and during wartime. For this reason, a special team has been formed to combat international crimes in all its complexity.
A substantial part of the investigation must take place abroad, in a war-torn land. Finding evidence is difficult because many records and forensic data, such as DNA traces, have been destroyed over time. That is why witness statements play such an important role in our investigations. Witnesses , however, are often scattered across the globe and must first be found. Then they have to feel safe enough to tell their story. Another complicating factor is that witness statements often involve events that took place long ago.
The International Crimes Team and the National Public Prosecutors' Office work together with other organizations to ensure that the Netherlands does not serve as a safe haven for perpetrators of international crimes.
Dutch Immigration and Naturalization Service Foreign nationals who would like to be admitted to the Netherlands bring their personal histories and their life stories to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. If the Service presumes that an individual may have been involved in the commission of serious crimes, their file is passed on to a special department of the Immigration and Naturalization Service which then determines whether Article 1F of the Convention on the Status of Refugees applies. If so, Dutch residency will be denied. In the event an individual is suspected of International Crimess, the Immigration and Naturalization Service will notify the National Public Prosecutors' Office.
Dutch Ministry of Justice and Security Investigations into international crimes will often require investigative work abroad, such as witness interviews, for which permission must be granted by the country involved. Officially asking for permission is referred to as request for mutual legal assistance. The Ministry of Justice and Security will then contact the other country on behalf of the Dutch National Public Prosecutors' Office and make such a request. The Ministry also ensures that Dutch legislation is sufficient for effectively combating international crimes and strives, together with the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to strengthen the justice system in other countries.
Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs The Ministry of Foreign Affairs helps with establishing contacts around the world and with mutual legal assistance requests. The Ministry also plays an important role in visa applications submitted at Dutch embassies abroad. In addition, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Justice and Security together strive to strengthen the justice system in other countries.
Repatriation and Departure Service Part of the Dutch Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, the Repatriation and Departure Service arranges for the departure of foreign nationals who have been denied residency in the Netherlands.
Foreign partners The National Public Prosecutors' Office and the International Crimes Team also work together with foreign partners. We have contact with our foreign counterparts to share our know‑how and pool our knowledge. We also work with international tribunals, such as the Yugoslavia Tribunal (ICTY), the Rwanda Tribunal (ICTR), the Special Court for Sierra Leone, and the International Criminal Court in the Hague (ICC). The ad hoc tribunals have a specific authority for a certain conflict, country, or period of time, while the ICC deals with individuals whose respective countries are unwilling or unable to bring them to trial. The tribunals and the ICC also have their own investigative teams who work for the prosecution.
What cases have been prosecuted?
Since 1996, several cases involving suspected commission of international crimes have been brought before Dutch Courts. The suspects originated from a number of different countries. The cases are listed by country, along with a brief account of the conflict that was taking place at the time.