More cops, prosecutors working anonymously due to organized crime threat
Trails against suspects in organized crime pressure the openness and transparency of the Dutch legal system, NOS reports. Increasingly, detectives' names are blocked out in case files, judges can't be filmed, and prosecutors' names can't be said in court.
Over the past two years, there were 39 cases in which public prosecutors were anonymized, the broadcaster reports based on figures from the Public Prosecution Service (OM). Their names got replaced with numbers in the case files in most cases. In nine cases, prosecutors could not be filmed or drawn. One of these is the case around the murder of Peter R. de Vries. There are also extra security measures around the trials against the violent motorcycle gang Caloh Wagoh and the Marengo process against Ridouan Taghi.
In the De Vries case, a complete criminal file was anonymized for the first time ever. The names of prosecutors, examining magistrates, detectives, experts, and even eyewitnesses were all omitted. Lawyer Ronald van der Horst, who represents one of the suspects, called it a new low point for the judiciary. "We are not blind to safety concerns, but it should not lead to a ghost trial," he said.
If there are concerns about a public prosecutor's safety, they can request measures from a special committee for "reduced recognizability," which was set up after the murder of lawyer Derk Wiersum in 2019. "It is actually crazy that we need such a committee," Diederik Greive, chief prosecutor at the OM Noord-Nederland, said to the broadcaster. He assesses applications to the committee. "We check for a concrete threat and a conceivable threat. We also look at the content of the case and the criminal network we are dealing with. Have they expressed threats before, also against other people?"
That is a significant change from four years ago when the Marengo process began. Then the OM announced in all openness that it had a key witness - Nabil B. Since then, Nabil B.'s brother Reduan, lawyer Derk Wiersum, and confidant Peter R. De Vries have all been assassinated. Now, when the Marengo process is in court, there are soldiers at the door. And prosecutors and judges can't be filmed.
Greive stressed that the openness of the judiciary is and will remain essential. "In the Netherlands, we don't try people in backrooms," he said to NOS. While some prosecutors are now less open about their work, they are never completely anonymous, he stressed. "We are in that courtroom, and everyone can see us there. We look the suspect and the defense straight in the eye."