Justice Min. promises to find more money to fund fight against organized crime
Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus of Justice and Security is looking for more money to push into the fight against organized crime, he said on Thursday morning, one day after defense attorney Derk Wiersum was assassinated outside of his Amsterdam Home. "If we really want to achieve success over organized crime, we have to take an extra step", Grapperhaus said, Het Parool reports. "More than we have done so far, also if it means extra resources."
Wiersum, a 44-year-old father of two, was shot dead while with his wife outside of their home in the Buitenveldert neighborhood of Amsterdam. The defense attorney died at the scene soon after the 7:30 a.m. incident on Wednesday.
He was representing Nabil B., a crime suspect turned informant. B. was giving testimony since last year against the criminal organization allegedly run by Ridouan Taghi. B. linked Taghi to eight separate murders, two attempted murders, and preparations for two more assassinations.
On Thursday morning, Grapperhaus met with the Public Prosecution Service to discuss this "terrible tragedy" and "attack on the rule of law", according to the newspaper. Like prosecutor Fred Westerbeke, the Justice Minister thinks it is essential to keep working with key witnesses - suspects who turned informants, often in exchange for sentence reductions. "We as society need to continue to do so to succeed against organized crime", he said.
Prime Minister Mark Rutte also addressed Wiersum's murder during the second day of the budget debate in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of parliament, on Thursday. "First of all I have to admit that there is a huge contrast between the shocking news from yesterday morning and the beautiful Prinsjesdag we had the day before", Rutte said, according to Het Parool, "A horrible murder, an attack on the rule of law, in the streets of Amsterdam. Your mind dwells on it. The murder of lawyer Derk Wiersum has deeply touched us all."
From the "democratic heart of the rule of law", Rutte wished strength to Wiersum's family and friends. "If our worst suspicious are confirmed, another line has been crossed by organized crime. We must resist this with all our strength", Rutte said. "Lawyers, prosecutors and judges: everyone involved in our legal system must be able to do their job. That is the norm and that must remain the norm. That is not negotiable."
Grapperhaus and Minister Sander Dekker for Legal Protection also met with representatives of judges' and lawyers' associations to discuss better security. On Wednesday the national counter-terrorism agency NCTV pledged to step up security and protection of anyone involved in the Taghi case deemed at risk, though exactly what form this will take is not yet clear.
Wiersum himself was reportedly offered a security detail after he began facing threats. However he refused the offer from the authorities because he was not confident in their ability to guard him, after several missteps by prosecutors compromised the safety of his client. He was still looking into hiring his own private security when he was killed.
In the Netherlands, everyone is responsible for his or her own safety, possibly together with their employer. If threatened person and employer cannot guarantee safety, the government comes in to the picture, according to Het Parool. For citizens like lawyers and journalists, that responsibility lies with the "decentralized authority" - the chief public prosecutor and mayor in the region where the threatened person lives. The prosecutor is in charge of protecting the person, the mayor of maintaining public order.
The prosecutor's policy officer works out measures in close consultation with the person to be protected, and directs a police team to implement those measures. This can be anything from surveillance cameras, to armoring homes and workplaces and cars, to personal body guards - depending on the level of the threat. If public order is threatened, for example because of an impending attack on a home, the mayor can intervene. The costs for things like personal security are borne by the state, the employer pays for other costs such as a safe house, according to the newspaper.
As the Netherlands is a free country, a threatened person can refuse state protection, like Wiersum reportedly did.