Foreign minister Stef Blok has asked the US to explain reports that several Dutch lawyers have been refused a visa for the US because of their work defending terrorism suspects, the Volkskrant said on Friday.
‘It is of great importance that lawyers can do their jobs independently and defend suspects,’ the paper quotes him as saying. ‘At the same time, I must acknowledge the fact at every country is free to set its own rules for admitting foreigners.’
On Thursday it emerged that two lawyers have pulled out of one the Netherlands’ biggest terrorism cases because they are worried their involvement will have an impact on travelling to the US.
‘I do not want to be limited in where I travel,’ one told broadcaster RTL Nieuws. ‘If I continue with this criminal case, there is a real risk this could happen.’
Earlier this week, lawyer Serge Weening, who is involved in the same terrorism case, went public with claims that his application for an ESTA permit and a visa both failed.
And according to the Volkskrant, lawyer André Seebregts, who also defends terrorism suspects, tried and failed a month ago to get a visa to travel through the US with his wife and children.
The American embassy in Wassenaar told DutchNews.nl that it could not comment on individual cases.
The Dutch law society is planning to make a complaint to the US together with European law organisations, the Volkskrant said.
‘This development is worrying,’ spokesman Johan Rijlaarsdam said in a blog posting. ‘If the Americans are trying to make the job of a lawyer more difficult or impossible, they are seriously damaging the rights of the individual.’
The US has also revoked the visa for the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is based in The Hague.
The decision is thought to be in response to Fatou Bensouda’s investigation into possible war crimes by American forces and their allies in Afghanistan.
The US had warned it might refuse or revoke visas to any ICC staff involved in such probes.