Justice Min. cancels U.S. trip amid Brussels controversy

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 decided to cancel a working visit to Washington this weekend so that he can work on questions Parliament posed him regarding the terrorist attacks in Brussels last week. He also wants to focus on preparing for the debate on the issue set to take place next week.

According to the Volkskrant, the Minister was scheduled to give two lectures in the United States about international law and counterterrorism. These lectures are now cancelled.

The debate on the Brussels bombings started on Tuesday already, but was cut short. The Tweede Kamer, lower house of parliament, decided that Van der Steur could not answer their questions sufficiently and sent him home to do his homework.

A series of missteps and blunders surrounding the Brussels bombings and the suicide bomber Ibrahim El Bakraoui, coupled with poor communication and misinformation, has the opposition parties looking for blood at the Ministry of Security and Justice.

The Kamer posed 68 questions to Van der Steur following Tuesday's half-debate. This is on top of the 166 questions asked him before Tuesday. According to the Volkskrant, most of the new questions are about whether information about the El Bakraoui brothers' terrorist backgrounds, received by the Netherlands a week before they blew themselves up in Brussels, was sent by the FBI, like Van der Steur originally stated, or from the NYPD. "Are you sure it was the Intelligence Division of the NYPD that informed you? How sure are you of that?" is question 48.

Some of the other questions revolve around the Ministry's decision to scrap the post of JHA-liaison officer in Belgium last summer. The liaison officer’s job was to make sure that police and judicial information from abroad is exchanged with the Netherlands as well as possible.

D66 MP Sjoerd Sjoerdsma will definitely be asking Van der Steur about that in the debate, he said to BNR. "In Belgium there is a great, alarming problem that can potentially affect us as neighbors", Sjoerdsma said. He wants to know two things from Van der Steur. "Why was this person cut away? And did that contribute to the bad communication?"