Friday 31 March 2023

MPs call for halt to crown witness deals following report into security failures

People lay flowers at the site where Pieter R. de Vries was shot in July 2021. Photo:

MPs from government and opposition parties have called for a moratorium on deals with crown witnesses in the wake of a report that exposed shortcomings in the personal protection systems.

The Dutch safety research council OVV identified significant communications failures between the police, public prosecution service and counter-terrorism unit NCTV in protecting the risk to three men linked to a major criminal trial who were shot dead in broad daylight.

All three men – investigative journalist Pieter R. de Vries, lawyer Derk Wiersum and witness Reduan B. – were connected to Reduan B.’s brother, Nabil, who turned crown witness against alleged gangland boss Ridouan Taghi.

Taghi and 16 co-defendants are facing life sentences in the vast Marengo trial, where they are accused of arranging and carrying out six fatal shootings in an 18-month period and plotting a further 18 attacks.

Coalition party D66 and opposition groups Labour (PvdA), the Socialist Party (SP), GroenLinks and Denk say the OVV report has shown that the personal security arrangements need to be overhauled before any new deals can be struck.

‘A well functioning system of security and protection is a precondition for concluding deals with crown witnesses, but the aims of the crown witness regulation itself require improvements,’ the MPs said.

Acting national police chief Liesbeth Huyzer told NPO1 last week that the force lacked the resources to expand the witness protection system, as proposed by justice minister Dilan Yesilgöz last November.

Gerrit van der Burg, head of the prosecution service, also said there was ‘much work to do’ before the minister’s plan to recruit more low-ranking criminals as crown witnesses could be implemented safely.

But Yesilgöz said last Wednesday she wanted to press ahead with the reforms and there were other reasons why deals with crown witnesses fell through. ‘This is not just about capacity, but also for example about the agreements we have to make with those involved.’

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