Deceased mayor criticized in report on Amsterdam's radicalization approach

Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan. October 6, 2010 (photo: Edwin van Eis / Wikimedia)Amsterdam mayor Eberhard van der Laan. October 6, 2010 (photo: Edwin van Eis / Wikimedia)

Amsterdam's approach to radicalization and the city's radicalization department are failing, and that can partly be attributed to the attitude of late mayor Eberhard van der Laan, is shown in two investigations launched after the dismissal of anti-radicalization officer Saadia ait-Taleb. Van der Laan was more focused on achieving fast results than following the rules and procedures, and as a result the Amsterdam anti-radicalization department risked derailing completely, Het Parool reports.

Ait-Taleb was dismissed for conflicts of interest - she gave assignments to a man with whom she also had a private relationship. The aim of these investigations was to determine how this could have happened.'

A municipal task force concluded that the mayor's attitude was a major problem in many conversations with people inside and outside the department. "It was experienced that he had little patience and could not cope with it if, in his opinion, people invented excuses", the investigators said in a report. They also found that there was "little room for objections" and that "it was experienced that the mayor expected the organization to arrange things that were important, in whichever way". Officials working in the department objected as little as possible to keep the peace. "The official top used the principle of choose your battles".

No attention was paid to integrity, according to the report. Employees decided for themselves where the boundaries lay. The task force calls this a big risk, certainly in the field of radicalization "where, for the sake of speed or confidentiality, procedures sometimes can not be followed', the investigators write. "It is then that the conversation about how to ensure impartiality, reliability and due care is extra important."

An external investigation led by radicalization professor Beatrice de Graaf concludes that under Van der Laan, the anti-radicalization department moved further and further away from the outside world. No knowledge was shared with external advisors and de-radicalization experts from outside Amsterdam, and the municipality made no use of experts who had not been hired by the municipality itself. According to De Graaf, the relationship between religion at radicalization is neglected in Amsterdam. This topic was not sufficiently debated with local communities or experts from other cities. 

The city council will discuss Amsterdam's approach to radicalization on Thursday.