The Cabinet has conducted independent research into its own support programme for armed militias in Syria. That writes to the House of Representatives Stef Blok (Foreign Affairs) today. A motion by CDA member Martijn van Helvert asked to do so last month, and received a large majority of parliament.
Human rights violations
The Netherlands provided support to armed insurgents in Syria from 2015 to 2018. The Cabinet had always told the Chamber that it would be civil goods, and that only moderate rebels would be eligible for support. Nieuwsuur and Trouw revealed that the Netherlands supported groups that cooperated with terrorist movements and were guilty of serious human rights violations.
The civilian goods were also found to consist of pickup trucks and satellite equipment, which were used for the military battle. The Cabinet had kept its own international adviser completely out of the programme.
The Chamber already asked for an inquiry into the aid programme, but was not satisfied with the implementation. Indeed, the researchers designated by Blok did not conduct their own research, and only came up with policy recommendations for the future.
The Chamber now wants a new independent committee to investigate and have access to all state-secret documents on the matter.
According to the Court, the programme still raises many questions, among other things because it is still unclear which groups have been supported and legal advice are also secret. Minister Blok has now pledged that he will give effect to the motion.
In November, it was found that Prime Minister Mark Rutte tried to personally stop a further investigation into the aid programme. He was against a fact-finding investigation and exerted pressure on coalition parties directors to prevent a majority in favour of the parliamentary motion.
A thorough investigation of the support programme could create tensions with foreign allies. According to Minister Blok, they would “react uncomfortably if they were to be questioned along the Dutch route”. In addition to the Netherlands, America and Great Britain supported Syrian rebels.
Minister Blok writes today that he will appoint an independent chairman to lead the investigation. Blok promises to give members of the committee access to all information it deems necessary for the investigation, including state-secret information.
Nieuwsuur and Trouw conducted months of research into the state-secret program with which the Netherlands delivered millions of euros of logistics equipment to Syrian battle groups in recent years. Check out the overview of this search, the revelations and all developments here: