Lawyers concerned about bias in De Vries investigation
Lawyers Peter Schouten and Onno de Jong, who are representing key witness Nabil B. in the Marengo assassinations trial, want Tjibbe Joustra to step down as chairman of the committee investigating the facts and circumstances surrounding the murder of Peter R. de Vries. This investigation absolutely needs to be independent, and Joustra is too connected to the government to avoid bias, they said to newspaper AD.
Crime reporter De Vries was acting as confidant for Nabil B. when he was shot in Amsterdam on July 6. He succumbed to his injuries in hospital on July 15. B. gave incriminating testimony against Ridouan Taghi and the alleged drug-centered gang around him, regarding their involvement in various assassinations. While the investigation into De Vries' murder is still ongoing, it is widely believed that he was shot due to his involvement with B. The key witness' brother Reduan and first lawyer Derk Wiersum were also assassinated.
Justice Minister Ferdinand Grapperhaus announced an independent committee to investigate the security issue surrounding De Vries and his murder. Tjibbe Joustra was appointed as chairman. He used to be the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism, the predecessor of the current NCTV. He was also chairman of the Dutch Safety Board, and involved in previous major investigations including that into the downing of flight MH17.
According to lawyer Peter Schouten, Joustra simply cannot be independent because of his background. "I find it really incomprehensible that Joustra is not withdrawing. That man should have kept his integrity. Such an investigation should be independent of the state, the family of De Vries, or us as lawyers. It must be completely independent," he said to AD.
De Jong is also flabbergasted by the choice of Joustra for chairman. "He undoubtedly has qualities, but he was involved in the establishment of the NCTV, an organization that is itself involved in this process. He can't do this. Even if he writes an amazing report, there will always be critics who point to the possible bias. Or people who say that he was extra critical to prove the contrary. You just don't want that. There are so many other people who are qualified to do this. Moreover, Joustra's appointment blocks the possibility of questioning him as an expert witness. That can be very useful because, according to the Minister, he is the expert in the field of security."
Following the lawyers' concerns, opposition parties SP, PVV, PvdA, Volt, PvdD, JA21, DENK, and BBB also raised doubts about Joustra's appointment. In a letter to parliament, Minister Grapperhaus said he would meet with De Jong and Schouten to discuss the matter.
Grapperhaus said that he understands the demand for an independent investigation, and that he specifically appointed Joustra to guarantee that. Joustra was chosen because of his experience with independent investigations, Grapperhaus said, and that knowledge and experience are highly relevant.