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2015 | Alleged war criminals in the Netherlands: Excluded from refugee protection, wanted by the prosecutor, by Maarten P. Bolhuis and Joris van Wijk

Based on article 1F the 1951 Refugee convention, alleged suspects of war crimes, can be denied refugee status. This article researches the practice of the Netherlands when it comes to the exclusion and persecution of alleged perpetrators of international crimes. It written from a criminology perspective, rather than from a legal perspective.

In the Netherlands, the Dutch Immigration Services have a special 1F-unit. It is policy to interpret the article rather strictly, even though the Netherlands has a relatively high amount of 1F-applications. One of the core elements of interpretation is that the threshold for categorizing someone as ‘suspicious’ are lower than in (national) criminal law.

The Netherlands wants to make sure that it is not a ‘safe-haven’ for war criminals. Therefore, all 1F-files are submitted to the public prosecutor. The prosecutor first checks whether the extradited – either to a tribunal, or a state – or prosecuted elsewhere. If this is not possible, the prosecutor will determine whether the 1F files should be sent to the international crimes team of the police to carry out investigations.

The investigation, but moreover the domestic prosecution of international crimes does pose some challenges. Firstly, they are very costly. Also, the passage of time between the criminal events and nd the persecution make it hard to find evidence. Especially since the (safe) access to, and cooperation with the country of origin or the cooperation are often limited. Especially when it comes to low-rank offenders, it can be hard to find witnesses.

Another challenge is the reliability of the statements that are made in the asylum procedure. According to Dutch criminal law, these can be used as evidence. However, it occurs often that asylum-seekers make up stories or exaggerate, even on joining certain groups involved in war crimes. Whilst doing so, they are often unaware of its consequences under article 1F. These statements are often complemented with authoritative reports from IOs and NGOs. As evidence however, these reports are too general.