Visiting a terrorist-dominated area to become a crime in the Netherlands
Soon, it may no longer be possible to visit terrorist-dominated areas without getting permission from the Dutch government first. Those who do could face prosecution and a prison sentence of up to one year, according to a legislative proposal drafted this week by the Minister of Justice and Safety, Ferdinand Grapperhaus.
Changing Dutch law
The proposal in question has been submitted to the House of Representatives and must first be approved before it can be implemented. If it is authorised, residents of the Netherlands will need to be granted official permission before heading to a terrorist-controlled area such as those in Syria or Iraq. The rationale behind this is the potential risk that those visiting these areas pose when they return to the Netherlands.
In Grapperhaus’ explanatory memorandum, he states, “In recent years, it has emerged that Dutch citizens travelled to areas in Syria and Iraq which were under the control of terrorist organisations to participate in armed conflict or to support the organisations otherwise.” As terrorist organisations in these areas often commit terror attacks in other western countries, there is the possibility, according to Grapperhaus, that residents of the Netherlands travelling to these areas could carry out terror attacks upon return.
Involvement in a terrorist organisation or planning to commit a terrorist attack is against the law. However, it often takes time before it is clear whether or not Dutch citizens are involved with terrorist organisations. The newly-proposed legislation would allow the Public Prosecution Office to quickly identify and successfully prosecute those who have become involved, as just staying in terrorist-occupied areas without permission would be a punishable offence.
Who decides the areas and permissions?
There are many known areas worldwide that the new legislation could apply to. However, in many cases, implementing this law would not be necessary or advisable. The aim of the new law is to prevent residents of the Netherlands from becoming involved in terrorist operations. Areas will thus only be assigned such status when this is essential to satisfy the law’s aim.
Areas will be designated only accessible with governmental permission by Order in Council. This does not mean that no one can visit such areas; it just means that they will need permission first from the Minister of Justice and Safety.
Those with a legitimate reason to go to terrorist-controlled areas, such as journalists or aid workers, will be able to apply for and receive permission. What’s more, journalists and aid workers can apply for these permissions to be valid for up to a year.