Revoking jihadists' Dutch nationality hinders prosecution: report

Scales of justice and gavel on law book
Scales of justice and gavel on law bookPhoto: tomloel/DepositPhotos

The Public Prosecution Service seems to be in conflict with the Ministry of Justice and Security over the policy to revoke suspected jihadists' Dutch nationality. This policy sometimes hinders the prosecution and trial of suspected jihadists in an "unacceptable way", the Public Prosecutor wrote in confidential advice to Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus, which NRC has in its possession.

This internal advice seems to confirm the perception that the Public Prosecution Service is directly opposed to the Ministry's approach to Dutch rebel fighters in the Syrian civil war, the newspaper writes. The Prosecutor recently also requested that the government bring 29 suspected jihadists back to the Netherlands for prosecution, while the government always said it is against jihadists returning to the Netherlands.

A legislative amendment in 2017 made it possible for the government to revoke the Dutch nationality of people who are active for a foreign terrorist movement, without them being convicted for this and provided they have a second nationality and will not become stateless. The measure has been imposed eleven times so far. Grapperhaus recently said that about 100 suspected Dutch jihadists are still eligible, according to NRC. The Public Prosecution Service must be consulted prior to the withdrawal to prevent the measure from hindering criminal prosecution. But the Prosecutor's advice is not binding. 

According to the Prosecutor's advice in NRC's possession, the withdrawal of nationality hindered at least a few criminal prosecutions. In the process to revoke 28-year-old Adil B.'s Dutch nationality, for example, the Prosecutor advised against it because the appeal in his trial had not happened yet. If B. is unable to attend his appeal because of his nationality being revoked, there is a "realistic" chance that the case will be declared inadmissible. And for 23-year-old Sara C. the Prosecutor said that revoking her Dutch nationality would "undermine" the ongoing criminal investigation against the Schiedam woman. 

Minister Grapperhaus ignored the advice in both these cases and revoked their Dutch nationality, according to the newspaper. 

The Prosecutor's advice also mention other objections to revoking the Dutch nationality of suspected jihadists. The Prosecutor worries that this will result in jihadists receiving a lower sentence in their criminal cases, because judges can take into account that they have already lost their nationality. The measure also prevents convicted jihadists from coming to the Netherlands to serve imposed sentences, which means they could go unpunished for "serious terrorist crimes", the Prosecutor warns.

A spokesperson for the Public Prosecution Service refused to comment about this to NRC. "We do not communicate publicly about advices", the spokesperson said.

A spokesperson for Grapperhaus told the newspaper that revoking Dutch nationality is "the responsibility of the Minister and the State Secretary". "We take all advice into consideration. But that of course does not mean we follow every advice. If it is estimated that it is in the interest of our national security to withdraw someone's Dutch nationality, then that will happen."