Van Bommel: ‘Human rights lose out to trade interests’

23 November 2011

Van Bommel: ‘Human rights lose out to trade interests’

After years during which the foreign policy of the Netherlands was guided by human rights, trade policy has now gained the upper hand. That was SP Member of Parliament Harry van Bommel ‘s main criticism of Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal during today’s debate on the Foreign Affairs budget.

Harry van Bommel In Van Bommel’s view the balance sheet after one year of this government’s foreign policy is extremely negative: human rights are more often ignored and the United Nations’ opinion pushed to one side whenever this better suits the politics of power. Referring to the Dutch international human rights prize, Van Bommel noted that “the last government continued to award the Human Rights Tulip. Of course this was symbolic politics, but this government is only bothered about tulips as an export product. This is symbolic of the shift in foreign policy under the leadership of Rutte and Rosenthal. Of course trade is good, it’s necessary, but it should not lead to a situation in which grave abuses of human rights remain unremarked.”

Van Bommel illustrated this with a number of examples. While the entire world was growing more critical of the Israelis’ building of illegal settlements in the Palestinian territory and the EU was holding back from deepening cooperation with Israel, the Netherlands will in 2012 organise the first Dutch-Israeli Cooperation Council, where the focus will be on trade. Meanwhile house building in the Occupied Territories continues and even enjoys the financial support of the Dutch taxpayer; one concrete demand of Van Bommel was that donations to projects in the Occupied Territories should no longer be tax deductible. These donations, to groups like ‘Christians for Israel’ and ‘Shuva Israel of the East European Mission’ contribute to the arrival of more colonists in the settlements and were thus in breach of international law.

While Papuans and Moluccans call on the Netherlands and the EU for help in the face of Indonesian human rights abuses, the EU concludes a trade agreement with Indonesia and the Netherlands is on the point of doing the same. And at the same time the state is trying to use the courts to refuse justice to the victims and survivors of the Dutch ‘policing’ actions of the 1940s colonial independence struggle.

The government has in addition made critical data on its own citizens available to the American authorities and is threatening to extradite Wikileaks activist Rop Gongrijp to the US. And Rosenthal has nothing to say when Bradley Manning, the American soldier who blew the lid on murders committed by the US army, could disappear into prison for a very long time.

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