Dutch PM condemns Cologne attacks, warns against stigmatisation

Mark RutteDutch prime minister Mark Rutte has described the New Year sexual assaults in Cologne as ‘disgusting and too bizarre for words’ while warning against the risk of ‘stigmatisation’.

Over 100 women have come forward saying they were attacked in the German cathedral city by men of north African or Arabic appearance.

Rutte told RTL news on Wednesday evening he hoped the German authorities would trace the perpetrators as quickly as possible. ‘This must be punished,’ the prime minister said.

The Netherlands must also remain alert, he said: ‘And we are. But what does not help anyone is stigmatisation and fanning the flames. So I am not going to do that.’

Arm’s length

Earlier, social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher criticised Cologne’s mayor for suggesting young women in the city keep strange men at arm’s length during the forthcoming Carnival celebrations.

Henriette Reker made the comments on Tuesday in response to the New Year attacks, in which dozens of women were repeatedly touched and groped in the city centre. Two women have said they were raped.

Wrong signal

Asscher said on Facebook that sexual violence is a ‘horrific attack on human dignity’. Reker may have been well-meaning with her comments but she sent out completely the wrong signal, he said.

‘Every woman has the right to freedom and safety in our society… and it is inappropriate to indirectly suggest the victims could have done something about it. The “short skirts” argument is thankfully no longer acceptable as an excuse for sexual violence,’ the Dutch minister said.

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