Justice Min. dropped the ball on Belgium attacks, says opposition

Ard van der Steur (Photo: Rijksoverheid.nl/Wikimedia Commons)Ard van der Steur (Photo: Rijksoverheid.nl/Wikimedia Commons)

Minister Ard van der Steur of Security and Justice faced a fierce debate in parliament on Tuesday on the Brussels bombings, especially from the opposition side. To the irritation of the opposition Van der Steur could not clarify what went wrong with the exchange of information regarding the Brussels bombers, the El Bakraoui brothers. The debate was cut short and will be taken up again next week, when the Justice Minister has more answers.

"We get no answer, we are told: 'I don't know', or 'I do not share your views'. But no answer", D66 leader Alexander Pechtold said, according to BNR.

One of the things Van der Steur did not know is why the FBI informed the Netherlands about the the criminal and terrorist backgrounds of the El Bakraoui brothers on March 16th, a week before the suicide bombings in Brussels. The opposition wants him to find out from the FBI why they chose the Netherlands instead of informing Belgium.

When the FBI informed the Netherlands about the brothers, the Netherlands knew that Ibrahim El Bakraoui was extradited here on July 14th last year. The opposition parties can not understand why the authorities did not try to find him.

"The FBI warned the Netherlands in March and no action was taken to address it. I understand nothing of that", GroenLinks leader Jesse Klaver said. Louis Bontes added: "You then even bring police officers in danger. They patrol the area and do not know that these dangerous people may be in the Netherlands.

PVV leader Geert Wilders went even further. He called Van der Steur's incomplete answers the low point of the debate and stated that he could have prevented the attacks. He asked Van der Steur if he realizes what could have happened if Ibrahim El Barkaoui stayed in the Netherlands and the Belgians did not let us know. "You could have prevented the attack, really", he said to the Minsiter.

Both Van der Steur and Prime Minister Mark Rutte does not think the Netherlands did anything wrong in this matter.  Van der Steur said that Belgium did not issue a warrant for the brothers and the Netherlands itself had no cause to do so.

According to Rutte, no "big blame" falls on the Dutch security services surrounding Ibrahim El Bakraoui's deportation to the Netherlands. He does acknowledge that communication with Turkey needs some improvement.

The cabinet promised to tighten procedures with the Turks, including a protocol for extraditions that clearly state why a person is being sent away. The D66 and CDA are surprised that no such protocols are in place already.

Despite the fact that Belgium denies that the Netherlands informed them of  the FBI's warning, as Van der Steur claims, Rutte thinks that communication with Belgium went well. According to him, the Belgians were not directly contacted about the brothers, because the FBI's information came from Belgium, NU reports.