On Friday, 21 April 2017, a complaint was made to the National Investigative Police at the police station in Den Bosch, the Netherlands, all on behalf of tens of the next of kin of victims of people smugglers from Mali. The complaint was made by Arnold Karskens, war-journalist and self-proclaimed muckraker, and the Foundation Investigate War Crimes (SOO).

Vice-President of the European Commission Frans Timmermans and NGO Doctors without Borders have now been sued for wrongful death, incitement and human trafficking (Article 197a). The Dutch police were also asked to investigate NGO ships, like those of the German organisation Sea Watch, that fly the Dutch flag.

According to Karskens, the Public Prosecutor will now “review the case”.

What made Karskens and SOO report Frans Timmermans and Doctors without Borders to the police? On its website, the Foundation states that in the last three years about 11.000 people drowned in the Mediterranean Sea, while there is little to no attention to the prevention of this tragedy. The question is asked whether it is a lack of interest in human suffering, or rather too much cynical interest in attracting potential voters and income, despite the human suffering.

The SOO has tried various avenues in order to get NGOs like Doctors without Borders and European institutions likes the European Commission, in particular its vice-president Frans Timmermans, to account for their actions in court. The Foundation finds it almost criminal that no warning of the dangers of crossing the Mediterranean is ever issued and goes even further by claiming that NGOs might be inciting people to cross the sea and run the risks.

As proof for this claim, it cites the Italian Public Prosecutor Carmelo Zuccaro, who is investigating the possibility of direct contact between human traffickers in Libya and NGOs just outside of territorial waters. SOO also mentions that Frontex, the EU’s border patrol agency, earlier put forward the suggestion that NGOs use light signals to guide the boats of migrants in, and so stimulate human trafficking, with all the dangers involved.

The aims of the Foundation are to use these court cases to raise awareness for the suffering of the next of kin and the political fatalism that drives European policies. The SOO is not interested in declaring the guilt of the persons indicted – it says it wants to leave judgment in the hands of the courts.