Amsterdam city council wants emergency debate after lawyer's shocking murder

Justice scales and the Amsterdam flag
Lady Justice in front of the Amsterdam flagPhoto: PromesaStudio / DepositPhotos

The entire Amsterdam city council wants an emergency debate with Mayor Femke Halsema on undermining crime after the murder of criminal law attorney Derk Wiersum in the city on Wednesday morning. Wiersum represented key witness Nabil B., who linked fugitive Ridouan Taghi to a number of gangland assassinations. Halsema spoke of "a horrible murder" that "affects the essence of the rule of law".

"The assassination of of a lawyer is a new low point in the series of assassinations in the city. It gives the signals that no one working for a key witness is safe, which does not benefit the criminal proceedings in Amsterdam and further complicates the handling of assassinations", the Amsterdam political parties said, Het Parool reports. "The entire Amsterdam city council expresses its disgust at this assassination and wants to debate this new low point with the mayor in the short term."

"With the assassination of a lawyer of a crown witness, a horrific line has been crossed, as far as the entire council is concerned. Never before have lawyers in Amsterdam been victims of the murderous conflict in Amsterdam", the parties continued. "The assassination of a brother of a crown witness was ice cold. A lawyer now being added is even further below freeing point. It is a major violation of our constitutional state."

"This is a horrible murder, of a father, a lawyer, an Amsterdammer", Mayor Halsema said about Wiersum's murder. "This leads to anxiety and unrest among lawyers." According to her, the police and Public Prosecution Service in Amsterdam are giving this case the highest priority. She will meet with them today to discuss the latest state of affairs, and see whether other lawyers need extra protection, she said after visiting the crime scene on Imstenrade, according to AD. 

"Police and social workers are in Buitenveldert and doing what they can", the mayor continued. "I sympathize with everyone who has been affected in any way by this terrible act. I wish the family strength with processing this indescribable blow."

Only on Monday Halsema along with a large number of other mayors and the Board of Procurators General wrote a letter to the government, raising concerns about the rise of undermining crime and the growth of the drug economy in the Netherlands. "The forms are different in our municipalities and regions, but the underlying problem is the same", they wrote, adding that this often involves criminal networks that are active nationally and internationally. "It is not rocket science: where the government is unable to enforce, a vacuum is created in which crime can thrive."

The mayors called for more police capacity to tackle the background causes of undermining crime. Now the police have their hands so full in dealing with assassinations, that there is little capacity left to tackle the root cause. The financial intelligence unit FIU should also be strengthened to be able to cope with the increasing number of suspicious transactions and money laundering cases. And they called on the government for measures to improve the reliability and availability of relevant data. "Even information that is available within a municipality itself cannot be linked for privacy reasons", they said. The mayors want room to experiment with sharing information between governments and government agencies in their approach to fighting undermining crimes. 

Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security addressed many of these specific issues in a post-Budget Day interview on Tuesday. Next year his Ministry will invest in strengthening the rule of law, and that includes a structural amount of 10 million euros and a 100 million euros fund in the fight against undermining crime over the coming years. In 2020, the ministry will focus on strengthening the approach against drug trafficking and criminal money flows. 

Grapperhaus is working on a package of anti-undermining legislation, including a law that will make it possible for mayors to close homes if the property had been shot at or weapons were found there. More resources are also being released for taking away criminal assets, tackling money laundering, and tackling human trafficking. 

"We must continue to invest fully in identifying and disrupting criminal money flows", Grapperhaus said. "And that also means investing in people. People do enormously hard work on all fronts every day. We have to support them as well as possible."