Parliament sees information rationed in answers to questions on alleged abuses in Iraq

4 December 2006

Parliament sees information rationed in answers to questions on alleged abuses in Iraq

The government’s answers to eighty-one parliamentary questions on the alleged abuse of prisoners in Iraq provide little in the way of clarification, according to SP foreign affairs spokesman Harry van Bommel. “That the Dutch intelligence services use controversial interrogation methods is indeed obvious,” said Mr Van Bommel, “but the Van den Berg Commission (which was responsible for investigating the country's involvement in Iraq) must make it clear whether Geneva Convention rules have been broken.” The SP Member of Parliament believes that, together with colleagues from all sides of the house, he has been subjected to unnecessary “information rationing”.

It seems certain that eight of the fifteen prisoners who underwent tough interrogation in October 2003 turned out to be spies or informants working for the Dutch troops themselves. The remaining seven were ‘real’ prisoners. The government says that while they were being “spoken to”, use was made of skiing glasses which made them, during interrogation, effectively blind, and loud music. Water was thrown at them. The eight informants or spies were subjected to the same treatment so that they would not be detected by the other prisoners. One of the fifteen subsequently lodged a complaint with the Dutch authorities. The first ‘discussions’ with the prisoners were conducted by a team from SFIR (“Stabilisation Force for Iraq”) and following this prisoners were interrogated by a Counter-Intelligence and Security Team from Dutch national intelligence service MIVD.

The parliamentary questions were provoked by reports of abuse of prisoners by Dutch intelligence officers in Iraq in October 2003. In response to these, the government decided to establish a committee of enquiry under the chairmanship of former Member of Parliament Koos Van den Berg. A total of eighty-one questions were presented by different MPs. Some of these have now been answered. The rest of the answers, as well as a judgement as to whether the Geneva Conventions have been respected, must come from the Van den Berg Commission, whose report is still awaited. “Only by asking precise questions have we been able to find anything more out,” said Mr Van Bommel. “Defence Minister Henk Kamp would have been better giving us direct explanations on Friday, 18th November, when the press first carried the story. By being open you get rid of a lot of uncertainty, to everyone's benefit.”

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