The De Hoop Scheffer Chair

18 February 2010

The De Hoop Scheffer Chair

Harry van Bommel

Former Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer has no regrets whatsoever about his support for the American invasion of Iraq. Regarding the lack of any legitimation for the war, he says, “I was and am of the opinion that the reasoning was certainly valid.” He would do the same again, therefore, despite the fact that every expert on international law agrees that the war lacked any justification. De Hoop Scheffer also believes that the Dutch Parliament was kept fully informed, although the Davids Commission has revealed that the government kept important information from MPs. Information from reports from the intelligence services was presented to Parliament selectively, while the American request for military support was kept secret. Telling half of the truth means providing incomplete information, which when governments do this to Parliament is normally regarded as the political equivalent of a mortal sin. Were De Hoop Scheffer still a minister, we would certainly be getting rid of him.

" width="100" height="150" class="drijflinks" />But De Hoop Scheffer is a minister no longer. He is professor of ‘Peace, Law and Security’ at the University of Leiden. A professor who must explain to students how international law works, yet continues to explain away the illegal war in Iraq. No wonder that students and lecturers in Leiden are currently resisting, retrospectively, the appointment of De Hoop Scheffer to this Chair. Professor Rien van Ijzendoorn writes in the university newspaper Mare that De Hoop Scheffer sits uncomfortably in this chair and will have problems sitting still. Professor Joop van Holsteyn wonders aloud what De Hoop Scheffer, who has no academic qualifications, is doing at the university at all. According to Van Holsteyn, De Hoop Scheffer has been given the chair as a reward. A student writes unambiguously to call for De Hoop Scheffer to be fired.

The Chair occupied by De Hoop Scheffer is named after the eminent professor of international law Peter Kooijmans. Kooijmans is of the opinion that it is not for individual UN member states to bring pressure to bear for the observance of Security Council resolutions, if the Security Council itself does not call for this. The US did just that, with political support from the Netherlands, on De Hoop Scheffer’s initiative. Given the harsh criticism of Davids by De Hoop Scheffer, he won’t be too concerned by the objections of colleagues and students. The initiative lies, therefore, with the university. They would be better renaming the Kooijmans Chair the De Hoop Scheffer Chair. This would make it clear to everyone that at Leiden, you will receive an incorrect and incomplete education in matters of peace, law and security.

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