Tackling international crimes head-on
Perpetrators of international crimes should not go unpunished. This is especially important for the victims. Tackling these crimes requires effective, international collaboration in investigation and prosecution.
Minister Dilan Yeşilgöz-Zegerius made this clear today at the opening of the conference in Slovenia. Together with five other countries, the Netherlands is the initiator of the Multilateral Convention on Legal Assistance and Extradition of International Crimes, which strengthens such international cooperation.
"Almost everyone will agree: atrocities such as genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes must not go unpunished. Wherever they occur in the world. A decisive and effective legal framework is desperately needed. Victims and survivors deserve our full attention and support. Their stories are heartbreaking. The Yezidi women who stood witness to the murder of their husbands and sons, after which they themselves were subjected to the most heinous crimes. In conversations with them, I was struck by their incredible strength and perseverance. I greatly admire this and experience it as a clear mission: fight for us, do not forget our stories and make sure that others are spared this anguish."
Distinct role of the Netherlands
As the host country of several international tribunals and international courts, the Netherlands has a distinct role and responsibility in preventing impunity for persons guilty of international crimes. For the Netherlands, the fight against impunity is therefore especially significant. For this reason, the Netherlands has a dedicated team of investigators and prosecutors who bring these crimes before the Dutch courts. A fight that is more relevant than ever. Ukraine has been at war for 14 months where heavy fighting continues, while investigations into war crimes have already started in Ukraine and several other countries. To ensure that the perpetrators of those crimes can be held effectively liable, the treaty is crucial.
What makes this challenging is that the investigation and prosecution of international crimes are primarily the responsibility of individual countries, yet at the same time suspects, victims and evidence often cross those national borders. To nevertheless bring these cases before a national court, international cooperation is imperative. Currently, the legal framework for this is incomplete. Collaboration takes place, for instance, based on bilateral agreements or outdated treaties. Consequently, it is highly fragmented and thus impractical and ineffective. That is why the Netherlands, together with Argentina, Belgium, Mongolia, Senegal and Slovenia - 'the leading group' - took the initiative in 2011 to establish this treaty. In this process, the Netherlands has always played the driving role. The convention will soon provide a legal - and modern - framework for international collaboration on mutual legal assistance, extradition and enforcement of sentences.
Fighting impunity in international crimes is at the heart of the Multilateral Convention on Mutual Legal Assistance and Extradition International Crimes supported by 80 countries. This initiative is at an advanced stage: from 15 to 26 May, the draft text will be negotiated in Slovenia and - it is expected - finalised. The Netherlands' commitment is for the treaty to be signed in the Netherlands by ministers from as many countries as possible in the first quarter of 2024. Afterwards, the member countries themselves still need to work towards bringing the treaty into force. In the Netherlands, for example, a parliamentary debate and an implementation procedure still follow.