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The Dutch section of Amnesty International, in co-operation with George Soros’ Open Society Justice Initiative published a report (PDF) on 31 October, about the detention of those suspected of, or convicted of terrorism in the Netherlands. As usual, Amnesty International claims that Human Rights were violated, without specifying which. Neither does the report make any attempt to put itself in the position of the Dutch state – sympathy in the report is completely with those held in detention. No true consideration of possible victims of terrorism, or the awkward position of the state in fighting terrorism is considered.

The slant of the report becomes painfully obvious in the use of terms. Amnesty International does it utmost to minimise the number of times it has to classify as convicted terrorists. Not only does it reserve the term ‘prisoner’ to persons “who have been convicted at the final stage of all proceedings without a further chance of appeal” it indiscriminately uses the term ‘detainee‘ for any

person who is held pending trial at the first instance or awaiting the further
stages of appeal in their case. At the time of writing, the vast majority of people detained in the Terrorisme Wing (TA) were detainees who had not been convicted at the first instance or people who were awaiting appeal. For that reason, this report generally uses the term ‘detainee’ to describe the people held in the TA.

This kind of definition seems designed to suggest the innocence of those in a special TA. It also has the rhetorical effect of making the Dutch state look worse for ‘detaining’ people, instead of imprisoning those convicted. Nowhere in the report is a clear indication given of how many ‘detainees’ were, or were later, convicted.

What is more worrying, is the seeming willingness of Amnesty International in the report to accept, without giving any sort of context, and without any critical questioning, sentiments offered by ‘detainees’. For example, even though the report later says that “persons suspected or convicted of terrorist offences are automatically assigned to the TA,” when confronted with the sentiment that

Due to the TA’s predominantly Muslim population, former detainees and civil society groups have heavily criticized the TA for being discriminatory against Muslims and at times have taken public action to protest the TA for being a ‘Muslim detention centre’,

the report, in one sentence both claims it

does not assess whether this is the case or whether terrorism legislation is applied in a discriminatory manner, [but] it is important for the government to recognize that many former detainees interviewed shared the strong belief that the TA was a detention facility that specifically targeted Muslims.

Amnesty International here leaves out the context that the vast majority of terrorism in Europe is Jihadist terrorism. In failing to assess the claim, while at the same time stressing the importance to ‘recognise a strong belief’, Amnesty International appears to lend it credence. It might have been wiser if Amnesty International had declined to take a position on the issue.

Unfortunately, Amnesty International seems unwilling to leave its opinions out of the report. They creep in every now and again, leading to statements such as the following:

Additionally, TA population growth has been, and will continue to be, the result of investigators and prosecutors relying on overly broad definitions of what constitutes a ‘terrorist offence’ and an ever-expanding set of counterterrorism laws that criminalise preparatory acts not closely linked to a principal offence. This expansion, for example, has resulted in a woman being detained and convicted for re-tweeting a single tweet that, according to a court, disseminated a message that incited people to fight in Syria, and a man being convicted for transferring 1,000 Euros to a childhood friend who travelled to Syria.

However, when investigating the examples given, it seems like there was substantial cherry-picking. As becomes clear from the (unofficial translation by the official website) translation of the verdict in the case of the woman. Although she was indeed convicted for

one inciting retweet and sentenced to seven days of imprisonment,

this was in the context of a court case involving eight others, and she was acquitted of participation in a criminal organisation with terrorist intent. Unlike the other eight, who received sentences of up to six years in prison.

And the man convicted for transferring €1000 to a ‘childhood friend’? That friend was actually a jihadist, something the man knew, as became clear from messages they exchanged. As such, he wasn’t convicted for transferring money to a childhood friend, but for being

guilty of collecting and providing money on account of a jihadist present in the conflict zone in Syria, meant to finance the armed struggle there. In this way, the defendant has substantially contributed to, or meant to contribute to the violent jihad in Syria. The actions of the defendant were, after all, aimed at continuing that conflict, a conflict that sees many die in gruesome manners every day. It is common knowledge that jihadist groups in Syria are guilty of gross violations of human rights. Defendant is guilty, by his actions, of a serious terrorist crime.