Senate will decide in autumn whether to launch parliamentary enquiry into Netherlands' role in Iraq War

20 July 2007

Senate will decide in autumn whether to launch parliamentary enquiry into Netherlands' role in Iraq War

The Senate has backed a proposal from the SP to hold a debate on whether to launch a parliamentary enquiry into Dutch involvement in the war against Iraq. With only the right-wing opposition party the VVD opposed to the holding of such a debate, it will take place after the summer recess. The VVD, which suffered losses in last year's general election and as a consequence moved into opposition, was part of the governing coalition which was responsible for the Netherlands' actions during the 2003 war.

SP Senator Arjan Vliegenthart devoted his debut speech to arguing that a debate would enable the different political groups represented in the upper house together to draw the lessons of what happened in 2003, with an eye to any possible future deployment of Dutch military forces. “We do not want to rewrite history," Senator Vliegenthart said, "but to prevent mistakes and catastrophes from happening in the future. Results from the past offer no guarantee whatsoever as to what will occur in the future. But closing your eyes to that past is asking for trouble. Neither we, nor our soldiers, nor the Dutch people should accept this.”

The Senate held a broad debate during Monday and Tuesday on the conditions under which any future participation by Dutch soldiers in military interventions should take place. Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen and Defence Minister Eimert van Middelkoop told the upper house that an "adequate mandate under international law" must be in place before any such intervention is authorised, but just what might constitute such a mandate remained far from obvious during the debate, which returned repeatedly to what happened in Iraq. Minister Verhagen said that he could also state retroactively that such a mandate existed in the case of the Iraq war. PvdA (Labour) Senator Klaas de Vries responded by saying that he was "diametrically opposed" to the minister on this point, confronting him with the bald statement that "There was absolutely no mandate, let alone an adequate mandate." Verhagen, however, did not flinch, answering a question from Arjan Vliegenthart by stating that as far as Dutch involvement went the same scenario as had occurred in Iraq could happen again in the future.

Last week the Senate received a petition signed by over 135,000 people demanding openness over Iraq.: “A cynical response was that this was only around one percent of the Dutch population," said Arjan Vliegenthart. "But as well as the time-honoured right of petition we now have opinion polls. And these show that a majority of the population is in agreement with the request for a parliamentary enquiry.”

The Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs has in the meantime placed the preparation of the debate on a possible parliamentary enquiry on the agenda of its first meeting following the recess.

You are here