Gov't bypassed adviser in aid to Syrian groups: report

War In Syria
War in Syria

The Dutch government did not ask its External Public Law Adviser for advice about providing support to Syrian opposition groups. According to the adviser in question, professor André Nollkaemper, the support offered to Syrian rebel groups may be "in conflict with the prohibition on non-intervention", Nieuwsuur and Trouw report.

Earlier this week the two news agencies revealed that the Dutch government supported various armed groups in Syria by providing them with logistic material, such as pickup trucks and uniforms. This formed part of the government's NLA, or 'non lethal aid' program. The groups involved fought against the Syrian government, among others. The Public Prosecutor labeled at least one of the involved groups as terrorist. Minister Stef Blok of Foreign Affairs promised to investigate the matter. 

The appointment of the External Public Law Adviser was one of the most important recommendations of the former Davids committee, which examined the political support the Netherlands offered during the Iraq war. In a written statement committee leader and former president of the Supreme Court Willibrord Davids told Nieuwsuur and Trouw that he is surprised that the government did not ask for advice about the Syrian aid program. He wonders whether the support given by the Netherlands to Syrian opposition groups is "permissible under international law".

"A vehicle, such as a pickup, can serve excellently to deliver fresh troops to the front or to transport or assemble weapons", Davids said to the news agencies. He called it "naive" to think that a pickup truck would be used for peaceful purposes.

Adviser Nollkaemper also responded to the news agencies. "Delivering such goods is problematic under international law. Because in this way you are getting involved in a battle against a sovereign state", he said. He referred to international law that prohibits states from interfering in the internal matters of another state. Doing so is only allowed in self defense, or with a mandate fro the United Nations. If the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had asked him for advice, Nollkaemper could have explained this. But the Ministry did not involve him in the NLA program.