Tuesday, November 29, 2005


A couple of interesting cases to keep our eyes on in December. Dutch courts have a very convenient practice of announcing ahead of time the date on which they will issue their decisions, so I'll be watching the news on December 12 and 22. Courts will hand down decisions on those dates in two separate cases in which the U.S. is seeking extradition.

The December 12 case (Dutch article) has gotten more publicity. A Dutchman of Iraqi origin was caught on videotape in Fallujah in 2003 with a group of insurgents who were preparing explosives for an attack on U.S. troops. The suspect, Wesam Al D., claims that he was forced to participate under threat of death, that he had gone to Fallujah for his wedding, and that he's now caught in an impossible position among the Dutch prosecutors, the Americans, and the insurgents. He says the insurgents have already taken revenge on his brother back in Fallujah. I think it's pretty much accepted here that his story doesn't wash. The Dutch authorities had already charged him with a crime before they received the American extradition request, which they are supporting on the grounds that the U.S. has a greater interest in prosecuting Wesam. His lawyer, opposing extradition, has naturally raised the specter of Guantanamo.

The same specter also features in the case to be decided on December 22 (Dutch article). The suspect is M.A., an Egyptian-Dutchman. The U.S. wants to prosecute him for fraudulent usage of telephone cards. He says the extradition is just a pretext; once the U.S. has its hands on him, it will get out the thumbscrews and investigate his alleged financial connections to terrorist organizations. The American embassy in The Hague sent a letter to the Dutch court promising that A. will not be tried before a military court, that he will not be treated as an enemy combatant, and that all of his rights will be respected.

I have no idea what the likely outcome of these cases is. Intuitively, I'd guess that both suspects will be extradited, but that's an area of law that I know little about in general and nothing about with respect to Dutch proceedings.

I just find these cases interesting. What's especially interesting right now is that the suspects' claim that the U.S. can't be trusted to respect basic due process seems to be considered plausible enough to deserve serious coverage in the Dutch press. As I reported last week, and as the Dutch conservative (English-language) blog Zacht Ei also discussed, even staunchly pro-war elements of the Dutch establishment are seriously troubled by some of the American excesses in the War on Terror.

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