Government must come clean over alleged complicity in poison gas exports

25 October 2006

Government must come clean over alleged complicity in poison gas exports

SP Member of Parliament Krista van Velzen is demanding clarification from the government regarding the alleged complicity of Dutch corporations in the supply of poison gas ingredients to Saddam Hussein. Ms Van Velzen decided herself as "astonished" by the contents of a recent book by investigative journalist Arnold Karskens, which alleges that Frans van Anraat, currently serving a lengthy prison sentence for his role in the affair, was not the only Dutch entrepreneur to have done business with Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

The book, Geen cent spijt (Not a ha'p'orth of regret), is subtitled "The hunt for war criminal Frans van Anraat" though it deals in the main with Mr Van Anraat's conduct as a supplier of materials for the manufacture of poison gas to Saddam during the 1980s, activities for which he is currently serving fifteen years.

Following up on reports on both the BBC and Dutch national radio, Arnold Karskens has drawn attention to revelations in a UN report which show that other Dutch firms were involved in supplying the dictator with poison gas materials. Among those named are Melchemie and KBS, names familiar to the Dutch public, but also the previously obscure company De Monchy.

To date former justice minister Piet Hein Donner has been unwilling to offer transparency in relation to these affairs. The cabinet has on more than one occasion prevented the publication of the UN list. Krista van Velzen argues that "it's unacceptable that the cabinet uses the excuse of the court case against Van Anraat to refuse to go public on these matters. It gives the appearance that the authorities are protecting people who have been complicit."

When Ms Van Velzen raised in the past the matter of the alleged involvement of Dutch firms in supplying poison gas to Iraq, the government responded by referring to the statute of limitations. "That sounded familiar," Van Velzen said. "When I first began to raise the matter of a case against Van Anraat, I was told repeatedly that the case would be too old to be dealt with. Doesn't look good, does it?"

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