137.000-plus signatures handed to Senate in demand for Iraq enquiry

3 July 2007

137.000-plus signatures handed to Senate in demand for Iraq enquiry

Today 137,555 signatures in support of an enquiry into the Netherlands' support for the war in Iraq were handed to the country's Senate. Almost 100,000 of these were collected by SP activists.

Fred De Graaf, Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs received the petition on Tuesday. It was presented by Allard de Rooi of the citizens' movement "Openness over Iraq", SP Foreign Affairs spokesman Harry van Bommel, Femke Halsema og the Green Left and Bart Griffioen from the umbrella group Stop the War. Most signatures were collected either via the website OpenheidoverIrak.nu or by hundreds of SP activists who went out to markets, stations, festivals and city squares.

"My thanks go in particular to the 140 SP branches which between them collected 100,000 signatures," said Harry van Bommel. "That's almost 80% of the total. SP activists' contribution was decisive for the success of this action. There were even a few individuals who had the staying power to collect thousands of signatures in their own right, and whole branches were stirred into action. It is fantastic how much of their own time people were willing to give up for this."

A further proposal for a parliamentary enquiry found insufficient support in parliament. The Labour Party (PvdA), which originally argued in favour of an enquiry, accepted in the agreement drawn up when it entered into a coalition with the Christian Democrats (CDA) after last year's election that no such investigation would take place. The petition's initiators, however, note that the PvdA group in the Senate is not bound by this political bargain and can decide for itself if it is interested in uncovering the truth.

Commenting on this, Van Bommel said that “If a country supports a war, it must of course take a careful look into what is going well and what is going badly. Certainly that must be the case when the war has disastrous consequences and costs hundreds of thousands of people's lives. It's a scandal that this has been negotiated away by the PvdA, so that we have no right to invoke a parliamentary enquiry."

Like most parliaments, the Netherlands' "Staten General" has two houses, known as the Eerste Kamer (First Chamber, also referred to as the Senate), and the Tweede Kamer (Second Chamber, the main legislative assembly and the equivalent of the UK's House of Commons or the US House of Representatives). Either has the right to call an enquiry in such a case, but in the case of the lower house this right was horse-traded away by a Labour Party keen to join the centre-right in government.

“Very many Dutch people want to see openness over Iraq, but apparently the government has something to hide, because they're clearly anxious to keep the lid on things. We will, however, remain committed to an enquiry, because it would be irresponsible not to look into what lessons can be learned from a decision which has turned out so catastrophically."

Gerard van de Voort from Rotterdam – "champion collector of signatures"

See more photos of the event (Text in Dutch)

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