Secret CIA prisons: Stop cooperation with US in Afghanistan
Secret CIA prisons: Stop cooperation with US in Afghanistan
The parliamentary debate over US-Dutch relations today took an unpleasant turn when the right-wing attempted to block voting on a resolution brought forward by the small centrist party D66. SP Member of Parliament Harry van Bommel was forced to use a roundabout procedure in order to save the motion, which called for an enquiry into the Netherlands' support for the war in Iraq. Earlier in the day's debate Mr van Bommel had Christian Democrat Foreign Minister Ben Bot on the ropes when he said that "Either you accept that the US is guilty of human rights abuses and declare that this is justified because it serves a higher interest, the fight against terrorism, which as far as I'm concerned means that our country would be added, along with the US, to the list of rogue states, or you don't accept the US policy, which decision would lead to certain conclusions. For example that cooperation with the US in those areas where people are being held in secret prisons must be ended."
The debate was occasioned by President Bush's admission that the United States was running secret prisons in which terrorist suspects were interrogated. D66's motion mentioned a number of recently exposed American government lies regarding secret CIA prisons, weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and links between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. It called for a parliamentary enquiry into the background to this misleading information and the ways in which the Dutch government was bypassed. The governing Christian Democrats and Liberals and the small Christian parties declared this motion to be out of order.
For the first time in many years political opponents did not simply speak and vote against a motion but attempted to make it impossible to bring it forward at all. SP foreign affairs spokesman Harry van Bommel responded to this by putting precisely the same motion. This time support from the SP, D66, Labour and the Green Left ensured that the motion will be debated and voted on Wednesday 20th September.
Earlier in the day Van Bommel had called on foreign minister Ben Bot to face up to his responsibilities.
“Following sustained pressure the Americans have admitted to having secret CIA prisons in which no attempt is made to enforce international law, that prisoners from these secret prisons have been transferred to Guantánamo Bay and that they are regarded as having a status unrecognised in international law,” Van Bommel said during the debate.
“It was admitted yesterday that the Americans have no intention of closing these secret prisons. Mr Bot reacted to this by saying that he was disappointed, but that he could do nothing about it. This situation is unacceptable in the opinion of the SP, and for the following reasons:
“The fact that there are secret prisons. The Netherlands can and should not accept that such prisons exist in Europe. The minister has received assurances from EU colleagues that there are no secret prisons in their countries. Does he still believe them?” The minister, Van Bommel continued, was in reality in this way giving approval to human rights abuses, a shameful matter for a person holding his office.
The government apparently knew nothing of any of this and still knows hardly anything. “What are you going to do to get to the bottom of the matter?” asked the SP spokesman. “Your attitude to date can only be understood by the US as tacit approval.” The prime minister had joined Mr Bot in expressing his “disappointment”, but this would rightly be seen as being for domestic consumption.
The EU also turned out to be “deaf and blind” when it came to this matter, Van Bommel noted. “The antiterrorism coordinator Gijs de Vries said in April before a Committee of the European Parliament that he knew nothing about secret prisons in Europe. He was not prepared to investigate complaints from a German and Canadian citizen who said that they had been kidnapped and held at a secret location.” Would the government now do something about this? Would it ask the antiterrorism coordinator if he can supply information regarding European involvement in the American's activities?
“If the Americans want to trample all over international law, they should not be able to count on the cooperation of the EU or the Netherlands,” Van Bommel insisted. The fact that the US was in contravention of an important treaty could not be ignored. “Either you accept that the US is guilty of human rights abuses and declare that this is justified because it serves a higher interest, the fight against terrorism, which as far as I'm concerned means that our country would be added, along with the US, to the list of rogue states, or you don't accept the US policy, which decision would lead to certain conclusions. For example that cooperation with the US in those areas where people are being held in secret prisons must be ended, such as Afghanistan.”
“Obviously the SP would not be in favour of the latter.” After America's lies over Al Qaida's links to Iraq, over Niger's supplying of uranium to Iraq, and over weapons of mass destruction, they needed to be told for once that they had themselves jeopardised any relationship of trust.
“It is not only the credibility of the US which has been reduced to a minimum. It is also the credibility of the Dutch government, and in particular of this minister, which is at stake,” Van Bommel continued. Calling for a parliamentary enquiry should the government not respond in a satisfactory manner, he said that if the cabinet would not take its responsibilities seriously and ensure that this affair were fully investigated and proper explanations sought, then parliament must do so.
“If governments don't keep to international law” Van Bommel warned in concluding his speech, “then they should not see it as strange when the feeling of disgust with their countries grows or that such feelings of hatred lead in the end to violence.”
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