Columbia International Affairs Online: Course Packs and Syllabi

Human Rights and International Law

Trials and errors: The Netherlands and human rights
Peter R. Baehr
from Human Rights and Comparative Foreign Policy: Foundations of Peace, David P. Forsythe, ed.
United Nations University


I. Introduction

Certain West European countries have the reputation of pursuing an active human rights policy. They are often referred to as "like-minded" in their foreign policy. The Scandinavian countries — Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden — are mentioned in this regard. The Netherlands has, for many years, had a similar reputation. The Norwegian human rights activist and present deputy foreign minister Jan Egeland once described this as follows:

The Netherlands has probably become the most effective human rights advocate today, because she ambitiously combines her favourable image as small state with allocating considerable resources to the planning, implementation and follow-up to an innovative and ambitious policy.... In the UN Human Rights Commission, the General Assembly and other UN bodies, the Dutch are always in the forefront in initiating new substantive mechanisms to monitor, mediate or improve when human rights problems are on the international agenda. 1

To what extent is Egeland's positive description — positive as seen from the perspective of the promotion and protection of human rights — still true?

This chapter does not pretend to cover the subject of Dutch human rights policy in its entirety. An effort has been made to present material that gives a picture that is representative of the subject. Inevitably, a selection had to be made. In the multilateral area, emphasis is put on activities in the United Nations, including the Netherlands' role in the former Yugoslavia under the auspices of the United Nations. Some attention is also paid to relations within the European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the Council of Europe. The section on bilateral relations deals with Turkey and with the linkage between human rights and development assistance policy, with particular reference to the former Dutch colonies of Indonesia and Surinam.

II. Historical background

The foreign policy of the Netherlands is characterized by a sense of international engagement. In the Netherlands — perhaps more than in other countries — there has always been a strong interest in events abroad. This phenomenon, which has been observed by many commentators at home as well as abroad, 2 has been explained in various ways. There is the physical location of the Netherlands on the shores of the North Sea, in the Rhine estuary, in the immediate neighbourhood of the three most important West European powers, Germany, France, and Great Britain. This location, with relatively few natural resources, in combination with a relatively large population in a small area, 3 led to an early emphasis on international trade as a source of income. This explains the great interest in the development of the rule of law in the world — a traditional feature of Dutch policy dating back to the time of Hugo Grotius (1583-1645). From time immemorial, the Dutch economy has been dominated by its dependence on international trade. This trade has always greatly depended on the freedom of the high seas — mare liberum. The development of international law was not only a fine principle, but also in the national interest of a small, militarily weak state such as the Netherlands. The seventeenth-century statesman Johan de Witt summarized the Dutch position in the following often-quoted sentence: "The interest of the State demands that there be quiet and peace everywhere and that commerce be conducted in an unrestricted manner." These words have remained a maxim of Dutch foreign policy ever since.

Since the seventeenth century, that maxim has been translated into the maintenance of international peace and the furtherance of international trade as tenets of Dutch foreign policy. The achievement of international peace and prosperity was seen as a national interest of the Netherlands. In modern times, this has received a new application in the form of furnishing development aid to poor countries and the promotion and protection of human rights. The long-standing international legal tradition and the desire to contribute to the improvement of international living conditions were mutually reinforcing factors that were expressed in the Dutch support of international organizations. 4 This idea has been given a legal foundation in the Netherlands Constitution (article 90): "The government promotes the development of the international legal order."

The implementation of these objectives has not always been easy. Dutch foreign policy has often been compared to a struggle between the clergyman and the merchant: although wanting to do good all over the world, commercial interests are never lost sight of. In the early 1960s, in political circles to the left of the political spectrum, it was customary to describe the Netherlands as a gidsland, a "guiding country," that was expected to provide guidance to the world. 5 In the end, however, commerce usually gained the upper hand. 6

In 1947 and 1948, the Netherlands was confronted with its own principles regarding the establishment of the rule of law, when the question of Indonesian independence came before the United Nations. The Netherlands considered its two "police actions" against the newly established (but not yet internationally recognized) Republic of Indonesia as strictly a matter of domestic jurisdiction over which the Security Council had no authority. Furthermore, in the view of the Dutch government, the situation did not present a threat to international peace and security. The majority of the members of the Security Council were not, however, convinced by the Dutch arguments. Under considerable pressure from the United States and other Council members, the Netherlands was eventually forced to agree to the transfer of sovereignty over the Indies to Indonesia. For a number of years, it held on to Western New Guinea (nowadays called Irian Jaya), but in 1962 it was forced to give up its rule over this remnant of its former colony.

To this day, the events leading to Indonesian independence in the years 1945-1949 have remained an issue of controversy in the Netherlands. Not so long ago, proposals were launched (and subsequently rejected) to hold a "national debate" to come to terms with the issue. The immediate cause for the controversy was the granting of a visitor's visa to a former Dutch soldier who had defected to the Indonesian forces back in 1948 and who had subsequently adopted Indonesian nationality and become a well-known human rights activist in Indonesia. The discussions on this issue and the emotions it entailed illustrate that for the Netherlands the relationship with Indonesia remains a very special one. 7

Voorhoeve has linked the internationalist attitude of the Dutch to "a tinge of Calvinist penance." He refers to similar attitudes in countries such as Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, which share with the Netherlands a Northern Protestant political culture that tells them to do good in the world. 8 In the case of the Netherlands, an additional factor is undoubtedly its colonial past. This has two aspects. On the one hand, next to hard-boiled commercial interests, there was always an aspect of moralism in the way the Dutch approached their colonial burden, fuelled not in last instance by the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches, which laid great emphasis on their missionary activities in the colonies. On the other hand, since the loss of the colonies, there has also been, at least in some circles, a certain feeling of guilt, of wanting to make up for the past, which is translated into efforts in the fields of development assistance and the promotion of human rights. The traditional Dutch interest in human rights policy stems from the same roots — what Voorhoeve has called the Dutch internationalist—idealist tradition. 9 This has been strongly pushed by national domestic actors. But before turning to these domestic actors, we shall discuss some basic elements of Dutch human rights policy.

III. Basic elements of Dutch human rights policy

The government of the Netherlands has expressed its ideas about human rights in foreign policy in a formal policy document. 10 That document was issued in 1979 and updated in 1986, 1991, and 1997. According to the present Foreign Minister, it still contains the basic elements of government policy in this field. 11

General principles

The government of the Netherlands has stated that in "international relations the conduct of States may be examined in the light of their observance of the elementary rights of their own subjects." 12 This is based on the principle that "man does not exist for the state but that the state exists for man." 13 The government considers civil and political rights of equal importance to economic, social, and cultural rights: "A person who has material prosperity but no political freedom and who is defenceless against arbitrary action by the State does not enjoy an existence worthy of human dignity any more than does a person who is free in formal terms but has neither work nor shelter and is on the verge of starvation." 14 It has opted for evenhandedness and non-selectivity in applying the principles of its human rights policy: "A policy which seeks to counter specific human rights abuses should be impartial and non-selective in that it must not concentrate on abuses in countries of one particular political colour." 15 A final point of consideration is the extent to which Dutch economic, cultural, or other interests restrain the raising of human rights considerations. Although the government "regards the promotion of human rights as an essential part of its foreign policy," that "does not alter the fact that this is a part of its total policy and cannot under all circumstances enjoy priority over the other aims of that policy." 16 Such limitations are for instance (1) "the promotion of other values and interests the government has to care for," and (2) the political sensitivity of the issue, "because in principle human rights affect profoundly the internal affairs of all States. A policy which seeks to counter specific abuses abroad regarding human rights ought to avoid arrogance. One should have understanding for the problems that other countries are faced with. At the same time one should be free from moral complacency." 17

The human rights discussed so far all refer to the rights of individuals. The Netherlands government, like most other Western governments, has been reluctant to accept the notion of collective rights, considering collectivities such as nations, peoples, or indigenous peoples as beneficiaries but not as bearers of human rights. In a letter to the Advisory Committee on Human Rights and Foreign Policy, which at his request had reported on the notion of collective rights, 18 the Foreign Minister explicitly rejected the notion of collective rights as human rights:

I am not inclined to add the category of collective rights to the human rights catalogue.... [C]ollective actions to protect individual human rights can meet existing needs. Solutions should be sought departing from that approach. I prefer a strengthening of existing mechanisms to protect already existing human rights, giving specific attention to the position of collectivities. 19

I have already mentioned the principle that man does not exist for the state, but that the state exists for man. From this principle the government concluded that "the individual as an autonomous entity [is] entitled to certain rights and freedoms" because "he is a human being and not from his being part of a larger whole such as a title, a class, a people or a State." 20 Therefore, when collective rights do not coincide with individual rights, the government will give priority to individual human rights. 21

Development aid and human rights

Should development assistance policy be used as a means for promoting human rights elsewhere? The government considered "that there is an indissoluble connection between human rights and development policy, as the aim of the latter is to create the basic preconditions for human development in the third world, both materially and spiritually." 22 The government has emphasized that human rights involve all the elementary preconditions for an existence worthy of human dignity, which "requires not only protection from oppression, arbitrariness and discrimination but also access to such matters as food, housing, education and medical care." 23 Should aid be used to reward countries that respect human rights and conversely withheld to punish countries that disregard such rights? In the shaping of development cooperation, one must consider in what ways development aid could be made to serve the best possible realization of human rights. In this respect it may be necessary to take account of the human rights situation in recipient countries, including the policy pursued by the authorities. The aid-giving countries should, however, "act with a certain restraint and without presumption in this delicate area. In cases where abuses derive directly from government policy, one should take care at any rate to ensure that aid does not contribute directly to the perpetuation of repression. Where there is a pattern of gross and persistent violations of fundamental human rights, non-allocation or suspension of aid may be considered, but other relevant policy considerations must be taken into account before such exceptional measures are taken." 24 In general, however, development aid will not be used "as an instrument for manipulating recipient countries" because "the government rejects the idea that aid should be used to reward countries which respect human rights and conversely withheld to punish countries which disregard those rights." 25 The human rights situation in the recipient country is on the other hand relevant at the moment of shaping development cooperation. The more positive a country's human rights policy, the greater the chance that it will be selected as a target country for development cooperation. 26

Mr. Jan Pronk, who was the Netherlands Minister for Development Cooperation from 1973 until 1977 and again from 1989 until 1998, was one of the main architects of policy in this field. In his 1990 policy paper, A World of Difference: A New Framework for Development Cooperation in the 1990s, 27 human rights received a great deal of attention. 28 An explicit choice was made for freedom and human rights. Human rights were said to play an essential role as a guiding principle and moral foundation for democratization processes. Classic human rights are the basis of democracy and provide opportunities to the lower levels of society to present and, if possible, legalize their justified claims and interests. 29 The argument that governments must be allowed to restrict civil and political rights in order to make progress in the field of socio-economic rights is explicitly rejected: "There is no freedom without food, but freedom prevails." 30 Political and civil rights are seen as preliminary conditions for achieving social and economic rights. Poverty must be fought by strengthening the autonomy of marginal groups. An explicit choice is made in favour of "development of, for and by the people." 31

At the same time, the paper noted the weak position of the state in many developing countries, which makes it impossible for governmental bodies to prevent violations of human rights. Therefore, a plea is made for strengthening institutional frameworks. In that respect, the training of judges and public prosecutors and support for human rights organizations should be given priority. 32

The 1993 government paper, also written by Mr. Pronk, A World in Dispute, 33 stated that freedom and democracy are necessary to achieve manageable growth in the world. "Good governance" must be stimulated, which means support for governmental services and private organizations in developing countries that aim for sustainable growth of legal security and of civil and political liberties. "Furthermore," Mr. Pronk wrote, "it is justified on grounds of development policy, in case of a serious relapse of democratization or in case of sustained excessive military expenses, to cut or stop fully the giving of aid to the country in question." 34

The two policy papers clearly emphasize the importance of promoting human rights on the one hand, and of emphasizing aid to poor countries on the other, and their mutual relationship. The Netherlands government directed its development aid policy in the 1980s to the promotion of human rights as well. It did not exclude that, in the case of serious violations of human rights, development aid might be decreased, suspended, or even fully terminated.

Economic relations may affect human rights in two major ways. They may have a direct negative effect on human rights in the country in question, or they may on the contrary be used to contribute in a positive way to improve that situation. In the end, international economic relations may be used to improve respect for economic, social, and cultural human rights in another country. That is especially true in the case of trade relations with developing countries. Seen from that perspective, there is indeed a direct relationship between economic relations and respect for human rights.

Grave and systematic violations of human rights may under certain conditions constitute grounds for restrictions on economic relations with the country in question. One of those conditions is that other methods of improving the human rights situation concerned have proved clearly inadequate. Another condition is that economic restrictions can genuinely be expected to lead to improvements.... An interesting as well as very important observation is the caveat that the measures must not disproportionately damage Netherlands interests. 35

Preconditions for action

The government of the Netherlands tried to clarify in the 1979 memorandum when, where, at what time, how, and under what restrictions it would react to specific situations in which human rights are abused: "Wherever possible the government wishes to help counter specific human rights abuses abroad, particularly in cases of gross and persistent violations." 36 Its efforts are "in principle concentrated on cases where there are grave violations of fundamental human rights, particularly when such violations appear to proceed from a systematic policy." 37 This can be considered a necessary condition for any Dutch reaction. To break diplomatic relations completely 38 or to refrain from customary export-promoting actions 39 are two instruments that the government has excluded from any reaction.

The next step in decision-making is "to take account of the other values and interests which the government has to promote" and "the repercussions on bilateral relations" 40 of any Dutch reaction to human rights violations. There is a constant need to examine the possibility of a reaction in relation "to other considerations of government policy." 41 The reaction "should be impartial and non-selective" and free from moral complacency. 42

Considering all these constraints on a governmental reaction, the government prefers "to combine forces with other countries: this applies both to confidential approaches and to public action" 43 "through international organizations such as the Council of Europe and the United Nations." 44 Common action is preferred because "our country can exert only limited influence through bilateral channels," 45 while "the chance of finding a positive response" when specific human rights situations are raised in confidential talks "is greatest in the case of governments with which the Netherlands had a certain relationship of trust as a result of cooperation between the two countries." A further consideration is "whether action by the Netherlands is likely to have any effect at all on the situation concerned" 46 and "it must not be counterproductive by unintentionally harming those whom one is trying to help." 47

When all or most of these deliberations have resulted in an affirmative answer towards action, the action itself will be restricted, because only in "exceptional circumstances there may be reason to restrict diplomatic relations temporarily with the country concerned." 48 Economic sanctions will be applied only if "other methods of improving the human rights situation concerned have proved clearly inadequate" and these "economic restrictions can genuinely be expected to lead to improvements" whereas "it can be assumed that maintaining these relations would contribute towards a continuation or increase of the human rights violations." 49

The most recent follow-up memorandum, issued in 1997, basically reaffirmed the principles listed in the 1979 paper. The government reiterated human dignity as the nucleus of the concept of human rights. It stated that it continued to subscribe to the equivalence of the different categories of human rights. In its policy, it would continue to emphasize the right to life and the inviolability of the human person. These rights were seen as specimens of the universality of human rights, which remained the point of departure. Thanks to the disappearance of the East-West conflict, human rights are now seen as one of the regular "tracks" of foreign policy: there is a responsibility to ensure that this human rights track has a content and is not marginalized in relation to other tracks of foreign policy. In addition, ways must be found to raise the issue of violations of human rights and to seek ways of cooperating to prevent violations. 50

IV. Domestic factors

Non-governmental organizations

In the Netherlands, as in other countries, the issue of human rights has been put on the political agenda mainly thanks to the efforts of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). More than the traditional political parties, NGOs have stimulated activities in this field and reminded the government of its obligations in this area. It is not an overstatement to suggest that it is largely owing to their efforts that the Netherlands began to play a leading role in the international human rights debate.

In the period 1960-1980, activities in the field of human rights mainly concerned situations in particular countries, such as apartheid in South Africa, the struggle for liberation in the Portuguese colonies in Africa, the military junta in Greece, human rights violations by military regimes in Chile and Argentina, and the suppression of political opponents by the Suharto regime in Indonesia. In all of these cases, "country committees" were formed in the Netherlands that concentrated their activities on the political and human rights situation in their country of concern. Herman Burgers, who was at the time himself an official with the Foreign Ministry, even calls the Vietnam protest movement "essentially ... a human rights campaign, although it was seldom presented in those terms." 51

The activities of NGOs that deal with human rights concerns of a more general nature, such as Amnesty International, date mainly from the late 1970s, when the Netherlands government issued its policy paper in which it set out the principles of Dutch human rights policy. Since then, NGOs have played an important role in the formation of Dutch human rights policy. They submit suggestions and proposals for strengthening human rights as part of foreign policy. The papers and memoranda of the Minister of Foreign Affairs are commented on. NGO representatives appear at hearings and approach officials of the ministry and members of parliament. The ministry usually pays a great deal of attention to the views of these organizations. For example, the Dutch delegation to the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna included two NGO representatives.

Among the non-governmental organizations in this field is the Dutch section of Amnesty International. This important organization has over 185,000 members in the Netherlands. In table 3.1, membership data are given for a few comparable West European countries.

Other important human rights organizations are the Netherlands Jurists Committee for Human Rights (NJCM), which is the Dutch section of the International Commission of Jurists, and the Humanist Committee on Human Rights (HOM). These and similar organizations 52 work together with organizations in the field of foreign policy in the Breed Mensenrechten Overleg (BMO, or "Broad Human Rights Platform"). This is a loose form of cooperation that meets periodically. Its activities become more intensive at times, for instance during the debates over the 1979 government memorandum (for which purpose it was actually established) and subsequent policy memoranda, in the preparation for the 1993 World Conference, and in the preparation of the activities on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in December 1998.

Advisory Committee

Between 1983 and 1996, an Advisory Committee on Human Rights and Foreign Policy provided the Foreign Minister with advisory reports on human rights issues, at his request or on its own initiative. 53 The Advisory Committee had been the result of intensive lobbying activities on the part of human rights organizations. Its independent members came from the ranks of non-governmental organizations, former diplomats, labour unions, employers' organizations, and academics. The Committee published 23 advisory reports 54 plus a number of shorter advisory letters. The Minister of Foreign Affairs issued written commentaries on most of the advisory reports, which sometimes led to further oral communications. The Committee acquired a position of its own by the quality of its reports as well as by serving as an intermediary between the ministry and non-governmental organizations.

In 1993, however, the government decided on a major reform of the entire system of policy advisory committees. Henceforth there would be only one advisory committee per ministerial department. For the Ministry of Foreign Affairs this meant that its three advisory committees (peace and security, development cooperation, and human rights) were merged. By the end of 1996, the advisory committees were replaced by a new Advisory Council on International Affairs, which was to be assisted by four consultative committees: peace and security, development cooperation, human rights, and European affairs. The result seems to be mainly an administrative downgrading of the previous system, basically maintaining the original advisory structure.

Political parties

The four major political parties represented in parliament 55 emphasize their commitment to the place of human rights in Dutch foreign policy. The radical liberal party D66 devotes comparatively the largest segment of its electoral programme to human rights, while the more conservative Liberal Party (VVD) has the shortest text on the subject.

The Christian Democratic Party (CDA) states that the promotion of respect for human rights must have a central place in foreign policy. Human rights are universal, because the dignity of every human being is not related to his or her country or culture. The human rights situation in a country serves as a criterion for giving bilateral aid. Gross and systematic violations of human rights are a threat to international peace and security and may be reason for international intervention. Such intervention may vary from diplomatic steps to economic sanctions and in the last instance to military action. 56

The Labour Party (PvdA) sees foreign policy as the promotion of not just national economic interests, but also pluriformity, tolerance, democracy, and openness. In view of changing international power relations, the promotion of human rights may cost an ever higher price. The recent conflicts with Indonesia and China serve to show that in order to promote human rights one needs allies. The Netherlands must make an effort to intensify European cooperation in the field of human rights as well. This is the only way to avoid becoming isolated. 57

The Liberal Party (VVD) states that serious and continuing violations of human rights may lead to interference in the domestic policy of other countries. To achieve a positive outcome, caution is prescribed. Interference by a group of states is to be preferred. 58

Finally, the draft electoral programme of the radical liberal party D66 devotes eight paragraphs of its section on foreign policy to human rights, the protection of which should be "fully integrated in foreign policy." It is the task of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to raise human rights aspects with other ministries. Human rights policy should be conducted with the use of all national and international bilateral and multilateral instruments. Effectiveness should determine the selection of such instruments. Universal human rights should be valid always and everywhere and must not depend on culture-bound interpretations by national authorities. If in a certain country terror reigns against its own subjects and neither the use of customary diplomatic channels nor NGO activities result in sufficient progress, international isolation of such a country may be considered. 59


Dutch members of parliament used to be very active in human rights matters. On the basis most often of information provided by non-governmental organizations or of what they had seen or read in the media, they questioned the Foreign Minister on such matters. As already noted, NGOs direct a considerable part of their activities toward maintaining contact with, and trying to influence, members of parliament. The 1979 policy paper on human rights and foreign policy was the direct result of a parliamentary request. Sometimes, parliament gets directly involved in the organization of the governmental machinery. When it debated the 1979 paper, it asked for the appointment of a high-level officer within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to deal with human rights. From then on, the deputy director-general for international cooperation, later the director-general himself, was charged with human rights affairs. His "high-level" position meant that he had also to deal with a great number of other issues and therefore could not give human rights his undivided attention. Consequently, in day-to-day practice it was a deputy coordinator who dealt with human rights matters in the ministry. 60 Parliament was also instrumental in the reactivation of the defunct Advisory Committee on Human Rights and Foreign Policy. It was less successful in its efforts to have the ministry publish annual reports on the human rights situation in other countries, following the model of the US State Department. Then Foreign Minister Hans van den Broek rejected this request, because in his view enough public information was already available and Dutch diplomatic posts abroad should continue to provide him with confidential information. Public reports would expose them too much in their country of accreditation — something that the United States as a major power could afford, but the Netherlands could not. 61

Under the Dutch constitutional system, government ministers are accountable to parliament. As no political party has ever achieved an absolute majority in the parliamentary elections, cabinets are always formed on the basis of party coalitions that reflect the composition of parliament. That makes their position relatively secure. Government ministers are seldom forced to resign during their term of office. The position of the Foreign Minister is even stronger, because it is recognized that he is often engaged in sensitive negotiations with other governments, which may not always make it possible for him to give a full account to parliament. 62 Members of parliament tend to give the Foreign Minister considerable political freedom. Although non-governmental human rights organizations tend to be critical of what they perceive as parliamentary weakness, it is in fact a reflection of the Dutch constitutional system. This having been said, it remains a fact that parliament seems to pay less attention to human rights matters now than it did in the late 1970s and early 1980s. 63


On the whole, it can be said that in the Netherlands domestic public opinion, 64 as expressed by political parties and NGOs, favours human rights. At times, pressure is put on the government to react strongly to human rights violations abroad or to take initiatives to extend the international promotion and protection of human rights. This means that the government could ill afford to ignore human rights altogether, even if it wanted to do so.

V. Multilateral policy

The United Nations

From 1980 until 1986 and again from 1992 until 1997, the Netherlands served as a member of the UN Commission on Human Rights. In that capacity it developed a considerable number of initiatives and proposals. 65 The Netherlands was active in the drafting of the Principles of Medical Ethics in Relation to Detained Persons. During the 1979 session of the General Assembly, it requested the Secretary-General to send these draft principles to the Member States for comment and then repeatedly requested consideration of the draft text. This led in 1981 to an unusual procedure: together with Sweden, Denmark, Portugal, and the United States, the Netherlands took the initiative to incorporate the comments that had been received into a new draft text. This revised text was again sent to the Member States for comment, and then discussed in a working group of the Third Committee under the chairmanship of the Dutch delegate. He succeeded in drafting a final version which was then adopted by the General Assembly. 66

Another major initiative was its collaborative effort with Sweden to steer a draft Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment through the Commission. In the General Assembly, it was again the Dutch delegation, with considerable help from a number of third world countries, that managed to achieve agreement on a text that was adopted by consensus on 10 December 1984. 67

Furthermore, the Netherlands was one of the countries that worked on drafting the (Second) Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on the Abolition of the Death Penalty as well as the draft principles on Conscientious Objection to Military Service. For many years the Netherlands has endeavoured to get included such principles in the right to freedom of conscience. In 1985, the Netherlands introduced a draft text that established the possibility of refusing to perform military service and of creating an alternative service. Faced with strong opposition from some of the East European states, the delegation proposed to adjourn the discussion of the proposal. In 1987, however, the Commission adopted a text, co-sponsored by the Dutch delegation, in which conscientious objection to military service was defined as a legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion. 68

In 1979, a working group of the Commission on Human Rights was established to prepare a draft Convention on the Rights of the Child, originally a Polish draft. The Netherlands supported the adoption of such a Convention and made considerable contributions to the draft. It took until 1989, however, before the draft text was finally adopted by the Commission on Human Rights and referred to the General Assembly, which adopted it by consensus on 20 November 1989. It was ratified by the Netherlands as late as 1995. The Netherlands delegation also played an important role in the drafting of the Principles Relating to the Protection and Welfare of Children, with special reference to foster placement and adoption, nationally as well as internationally.

Another issue in which the Netherlands was actively involved was the Declaration on the Right to Development, in which it played the role of mediator between the third world countries on the one hand and the Western countries on the other. In 1979, the General Assembly adopted a resolution sponsored by a number of third world nations that named the right to development a human right. In following years, the Dutch expert Paul de Waart was one of the key negotiators in the drafting of the Declaration on the Right to Development, which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1986.

The Netherlands played a role in the drafting of the Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (1981). As early as 1962, the General Assembly had asked the Commission on Human Rights to draft such a declaration. Although there was still a considerable amount of opposition on the part of the East European countries, the Dutch delegation to the Commission on Human Rights introduced a draft resolution aimed at the adoption of the declaration. In the General Assembly, the Dutch delegation, acting as coordinator of the group of Western countries, succeeded, after intensive negotiations with the Islamic states, in getting the declaration adopted.

The Netherlands was also very active in further developing the role of UN organs in the supervision of respect for human rights. The proposal for a Special Rapporteur on Torture of the Commission on Human Rights was drafted by the Dutch delegation. The chairman of the delegation, Professor Kooijmans, was the first person to be appointed to that position. 69 In 1980, the Commission on Human Rights decided, on a proposal mainly developed by the Australian, Canadian, and Dutch delegations, to establish a Working Group on Involuntary Disappearances. Since its establishment, the Netherlands has actively supported the annual renewal of its mandate. A Dutch Foreign Ministry official, Toine van Dongen, served as a member of the Working Group between 1984 and 1993. Similar strong support was given to the establishment of a Special Rapporteur on Summary or Arbitrary Executions (1982). Dutch support for this organ received additional stimulus from the summary execution of 15 political opponents of the military regime in the former Dutch colony of Surinam in December 1982 (see further below).

On the whole, it can be said that the Netherlands government gave support to most of the proposals to strengthen UN supervision mechanisms. In 1996, it adopted and circulated among members of the UN Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities a report from the Advisory Committee on Human Rights and Foreign Policy on "The Role of the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities." 70 A second report from the Advisory Committee, which dealt with reporting procedures, complaints procedures, inquiry procedures, Charter-based procedures, and mechanisms, 71 was adopted by the government and circulated as a document of the UN General Assembly. 72

Former Yugoslavia

Since 1963, the Netherlands has put military units on stand-by to be used for UN peacekeeping operations. Between 1979 and 1985 Dutch military units participated in the UN peacekeeping operation in Lebanon (UNIFIL). After the end of the Cold War, the Netherlands contributed military units, observers, and police monitors to UN peacekeeping operations in Namibia, Angola, Cambodia, Uganda—Rwanda, and Mozambique. It was directly confronted with the practice of gross human rights violations 73 through its involvement in the United Nations peacekeeping efforts in the war in Yugoslavia. As part of its contribution to the United Nations Protection Force in Yugoslavia (UNPROFOR), the Netherlands government decided in early 1994 to station a lightly armed small military unit (630 persons, later reduced to 430) in the Bosnian enclave of Srebrenica, which had been named a "safe area" by the Security Council. The idea was that such a safe area should be free from any armed attack or any other hostile act. 74 The enclave was overrun by Serb Bosnian forces on 11 July 1995. NATO aircraft stationed in Italy, which included Dutch fighter aircraft that might have repelled the attack, were not called into action. It has remained unclear whether this was due to inaction on the part mainly of the United Nations command or of the Dutch government. One Dutch soldier was killed when the town was taken, and the Dutch contingent was allowed to leave the enclave without further losses. 75 During the first two weeks of July, the Serbs expelled 23,000 Bosnian Muslim women and children and captured and executed several thousand Muslim male civilians. 76 The degree to which the Dutch government and the Dutch forces share indirect responsibility for this war crime has been the subject of public debate in the Netherlands ever since. The government managed to survive a number of parliamentary debates, among other reasons because a parliamentary majority shared responsibility, because it had in the past always given its support to the government's policy in regard to the former Yugoslavia. At the request of parliament, the government approached the United Nations Secretariat and some members of the Security Council to conduct a thorough study of the matter. This request was, however, turned down. 77 Thereupon, the government requested the National Institute for War Documentation in Amsterdam (RIOD), which has a reputation for its specialized knowledge on the role of the Netherlands in the Second World War, to undertake a major study of the issue. This action on the part of the government was widely interpreted as a move to take the issue out of the political debate. 78

The Srebrenica operation was a disaster because of the massacre of thousands of unarmed Muslim civilians, who, though residents of a UN-proclaimed "safe area," did not receive the necessary protection from the UN troops. For the Dutch it was a truly traumatic experience, 79 as it ran counter to cherished Dutch views in favour of contributing to UN peacekeeping operations and undertaking activities on behalf of human rights and humanitarian law. Many questions have so far remained unanswered:

It remains to be seen whether the study by the Amsterdam institute will provide answers to these and many other sensitive questions. At the time of writing this chapter, the study is still under way.

In a more positive vein, also relating to Yugoslavia, since 1993 the Netherlands has hosted the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague. In addition to making available courtroom and other facilities to the Tribunal, the Netherlands supplies detention facilities for the accused. This involved considerable costs to the Dutch taxpayer. 83 The position of Registrar of the Tribunal is held by a Dutch citizen. 84 Whatever one may think of the achievements of the Tribunal so far, 85 the Netherlands government considers it of great importance to make The Hague, which also houses the International Court of Justice and the Permanent Court of Arbitration, and will house the soon to be established Permanent International Criminal Court, into what former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali once called the "international legal capital of the world."

The European Union

The original treaties that form the basis of the European Community (nowadays the European Union) did not contain specific references to human rights. Gradually, the main European organs, the Council of Ministers, the European Commission, and the European Parliament, began to pay greater attention to the subject. This resulted in a number of declarations 86 and in the provisions of a Common Foreign and Security Policy of the Treaty on European Union (the "Maastricht Treaty"), which entered into force in 1993. Its objectives include explicitly "to develop and consolidate democracy and the rule of law, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms." Most of this Common Foreign and Security Policy is still in a preparatory stage. For the time being, foreign policy-making remains more a matter of intergovernmental cooperation than of real common European policy. 87

At meetings of international organizations and at international conferences, EU member states meet on a regular basis to consult with each other and exchange information. At meetings of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, joint statements are delivered by the government that holds the presidency of the European Council of Ministers and on occasion the EU members may jointly sponsor draft resolutions. In 1997, the Netherlands, on behalf of the European Union, co-sponsored draft resolutions on Iran, Iraq, Burma, Zaire, East Timor, Nigeria, and the rights of the child. 88 Also in 1997, the European Commission addressed the session of the UN Commission on Human Rights for the first time. Commissioner Hans van den Broek, himself a former Dutch Foreign Minister, spoke about various aspects of the Union's human rights activities. These included its support for international and regional initiatives (international tribunals, human rights observation missions), positive measures to promote human rights in developing countries, election assistance, and conflict prevention and limitation. 89

On occasion, however, such efforts may fail, as the Netherlands found to its regret in the case of its attempt to introduce a joint resolution on China during the 1997 session of the Commission on Human Rights. The Netherlands, as President of the Council of Ministers of the European Union, proposed to introduce a resolution on behalf of the EU criticizing China's record in human rights. Such a resolution had been proposed — and not acted upon by the Commission — by the EU during previous sessions. 90 This time, however, France, later joined by Germany, Italy, Spain, and Greece, refused to support this initiative. 91 It was left to EU member Denmark to introduce the resolution on its own behalf. As in previous years, China managed to block consideration of the resolution by having a "no action" proposal adopted. The lack of agreement among the European partners was widely assumed to be connected to a planned visit by French President Jacques Chirac to China, during which he was to conclude a profitable contract for the European Airbus company. Denmark and the Netherlands were strongly criticized by China for what it considered as involvement in its domestic affairs. China cancelled a number of visits by Danish and Dutch ministers and threatened to suspend trade relations.

Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe

The Netherlands played a leading role in the adoption of supervision mechanisms with regard to the "human dimension" in the 1989 Vienna follow-up meeting of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE; now the OSCE). The Dutch proposal for a High Commissioner on National Minorities was adopted by the summit meeting of the CSCE participating states in Helsinki in July 1992. A Dutchman was the first — and up till now the only — person to be appointed to that position: former Foreign Minister Max van der Stoel. He conducts most of his activities beyond the glare of publicity, laying emphasis on an approach of quiet diplomacy. As an instrument of conflict prevention he must call for early warnings and, if necessary, for early action, whenever the position of national minorities might lead to tensions. This presents him with a dual task: he must try to contain the tensions that fall within his mandate and he must warn the OSCE when the tensions could escalate to a level that he can no longer contain with the tools at his disposal. 92 Mr. van der Stoel's role has been widely appreciated and he is reputed to have helped to contain a number of potential conflicts. His success is hard to estimate, however; it lies in the non-occurrence of events that would have taken place had he not acted. The number of states in which he has been involved is to say the least impressive. Among these were: Albania, Croatia, Estonia, Macedonia, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia, and Ukraine. 93 The establishment of his office has probably been the most successful Dutch initiative within OSCE.

The Council of Europe

The Council of Europe has built up a reputation of harbouring the most effective regional instrument of human rights supervision: the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The findings of its main organs, the European Court of Human Rights and the European Commission of Human Rights, 94 are generally respected by the States Parties. In recent years, the number of states that are party to the Convention has greatly increased through the accession of the former members of the communist bloc in Eastern Europe. Admission to membership of the Council of Europe used to be seen as a seal of approval by the European states that the new member had met certain minimum criteria of democratic government and observance of human rights. This seems nowadays to be no longer true. Experts have questioned whether such newly admitted member states as Croatia, Romania, Ukraine, and the Russian Federation have actually met these minimum requirements. The Netherlands, together with Greece, was at first opposed to Romania's membership, but in the end sided with the majority. After that, the admission of the other states mentioned was politically more or less a foregone conclusion. Many of these states see membership of the Council of Europe as an approach toward membership of the European Union — which may be legal nonsense, but is politically sound reasoning. With the accession of these new members, the nature of the Council and its organs may change drastically, moving away from the strict application of the human rights rules of the European Convention.

The Netherlands government has said that it will continue to support the human rights activities of the Council and try to prevent duplications with the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. It will continue to bring about the best possible effectiveness of the supervisory mechanisms. 95

In 1996, 12,143 cases were lodged with the European Commission on Human Rights. At the moment, 140 cases against the Netherlands are being dealt with by the European Commission. Annually, about five such cases reach the European Court. 96

VI. Bilateral policy

In a parliamentary debate in June 1997, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hans van Mierlo, made the point that, in the field of human rights, multilateral policy had a greater chance of success than bilateral policy:

Although the government does not tend to let the bilateral policy disappear altogether, it remains a fact that a powerful state can achieve more bilaterally than a less powerful state. It should not be forgotten that the Netherlands is a member of the EU [European Union], a forum that gives more and more emphasis to the field of human rights. 97


One case in which the tension between considerations of human rights and other foreign policy considerations was at issue has been relations with NATO ally Turkey. For many years, Turkey has been criticized for its violations of fundamental human rights, for example through the practice of torture occurring in places of detention. The Western states have on the whole been rather reluctant to express public criticism of Turkey. A state complaint, which was lodged under the rules of the European Convention on Human Rights by Denmark, Norway, Sweden, France, and the Netherlands in 1982, ended in 1985 with a friendly settlement. In this settlement, Turkey committed itself to submit three reports on the measures it had taken to ensure the prohibition of torture practices. Critics felt at the time that the Turkish government had made little or no commitment to improve the human rights situation and was let off far too easily. 98 Recent efforts by non-governmental organizations to revive the state complaint have so far come to naught. 99 Although human rights violations in Turkey have continued, especially with regard to the Kurdish population, it seems obvious that security interests have prevailed over human rights considerations.

Human rights and development assistance

In its bilateral policy, the Netherlands has found it especially hard to combine the two policy objectives of the promotion and protection of human rights on the one hand, and the giving of financial support to poor countries in the form of development assistance on the other. 100 Other countries, such as Norway, struggle with the same problem. 101 Should aid be continued in the face of gross and systematic human rights violations? Should it be used as an instrument on behalf of the promotion of human rights? The Minister for Development Cooperation, Jan Pronk, mentioned in a parliamentary debate the following examples of such policy: to certain countries, such as Syria, Burma, Zaire, and Kazakhstan, no development assistance was given because of the human rights situation in those countries; in respect of other countries, such as Chile, Mauretania, Sri Lanka, Mali, Sudan, Niger, and the Gambia, development assistance was suspended because of the human rights situation; because of the improvement in the human rights situation, aid to Cambodia, 102 Haiti, Malawi, Chile, and Guatemala was resumed. 103

Relations with Indonesia

The problem of the linkage between human rights and development assistance has manifested itself especially in the relationship of the Netherlands with two former colonies, Indonesia and Surinam. 104 The suppression by the Indonesian army of a coup d'Ètat of left-wing officers on 30 September 1965 led to a period of gross violations of human rights. Between 1965 and 1968 more than 1 million people were killed. 105 Arrests took place on a massive scale. According to official statistics, 750,000 people were arrested in this period. These huge numbers of political prisoners were not put on any kind of trial, or only after a long time. Many were detained in camps and tortured, which often led to their death. Hygiene and nutrition in the camps were grossly deficient. The survivors were only gradually released, often after many years of detention. After their release, these "ex-Tapols" remained subject to all sorts of restrictions. 106

At the time, the question was raised in the Netherlands whether and to what extent development aid should be used to put pressure on the Indonesian authorities to get the political prisoners released. The international position of the Netherlands was strengthened when it became chairman of an international donor consortium for Indonesia, the InterGovernmental Group on Indonesia (IGGI), established in 1967. Non-governmental human rights organizations repeatedly requested that the human rights situation in Indonesia be put on the IGGI agenda, but this was rejected by the Netherlands and the other IGGI members. The human rights situation in Indonesia deteriorated further in the early 1970s, when death squads wantonly killed opponents of the Suharto regime. In 1975, Indonesia invaded and incorporated the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, suppressing the East Timorese independence movement. The Indonesian army also acted mercilessly against separatist movements in Aceh and Irian Jaya.

What should the Netherlands do in these circumstances? Economic and business relations with Indonesia had improved after 1966. Almost 10 per cent of Dutch development aid went to Indonesia. Trade with Indonesia rose from 450 million guilders in 1966 to more than 1,500 million guilders in 1984. Cultural relations showed a growing improvement. In 1970, President Suharto paid an official visit to the Netherlands, which was returned by Queen Juliana in 1971.

On the other hand, non-governmental organizations urged the Dutch government to do something about the deteriorating human rights situation in Indonesia. Also, within the Dutch Labour Party and the smaller Radical Party (Politieke Partij Radicalen), both of which formed part of the governing coalition, voices were heard in favour of cutting or suspending development aid to Indonesia to express Dutch concern about the human rights situation. In 1975, Minister Pronk did indeed cut development aid to Indonesia, claiming that Indonesia's need for aid had decreased. He announced that he would shortly review the entire development aid programme for Indonesia in a policy review paper. The government fell before Pronk's policy review paper was issued, but its contents were widely leaked. He concluded that he would not discontinue development aid to Indonesia because the Indonesian government, under international pressure, had announced that it would do something about the problem of the political prisoners. He did argue in favour of the dissolution of IGGI and its replacement by a development consortium of the World Bank, which would not be chaired by the Netherlands. 107 The latter recommendation was not taken up by the successor government, in which the Labour Party was not represented. The development aid programme for Indonesia was continued without changes.

The human rights situation in Indonesia received renewed international attention in 1985 when four former bodyguards of President Sukarno, who had been detained because of their involvement in the 1965 military coup, were executed. Many people felt that it was against basic humanitarian principles to execute them after so many years of detention. Other aspects of the human rights situation in Indonesia caused international concern as well. Between 1982 and 1984, a number of "mysterious murders" took place, which President Suharto, in his autobiography published in 1989, later said had occurred on official orders. There were reports of human rights violations by the security forces in Irian Jaya, Aceh, and East Timor. On East Timor, matters came to a head when the Indonesian military opened fire on a funeral procession in the East Timorese capital of Dili, killing an estimated 100 people. 108 Since then, both intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations have reported on continued human rights violations in East Timor.

In the Netherlands, Mr. Pronk had returned as Minister for Development Cooperation in 1989. He reacted to the execution of another four former bodyguards of President Sukarno by withdrawing 27 million guilders of additional aid for Indonesia. This announcement was of little financial importance, but it was generally seen as a cause for renewed tension between the Netherlands and Indonesia. The announcement that Indonesia was planning to execute another six former bodyguards — later denied by the Indonesian authorities — led to demarches by the President of the Council of Ministers of the European Communities as well as by the governments of the Netherlands and other European countries. Pronk discussed the matter during his visit to Indonesia in April 1990 and in informal meetings at the IGGI meeting in June 1990. Pronk was perhaps encouraged by his alleged "success" when the bodyguards were in fact not executed. 109 He publicly expressed his aversion to the human rights situation in Indonesia.

A first preliminary investigation of the Dili affair by a national Indonesian commission was widely seen as inadequate. In the Dutch parliament and the press critical questions were raised. The Netherlands government reacted by suspending another 27 million guilders of aid for 1992. At first, the Netherlands did not stand alone in this. Two other donor countries, Denmark and Canada, announced that they would stop their aid programmes for Indonesia. However, no consultations about this took place among the three countries. Portugal, the former colonial ruler over East Timor, led the efforts to arrive at an international condemnation of the Dili massacre. Also the European Communities suspended its aid programme and in the European Parliament the establishment of an arms embargo was being urged. 110 A second investigation took place, this time by the military, which by Indonesian standards was very critical: the military response to the demonstration in Dili was described as excessive and not in line with instructions. President Suharto reacted by firing two generals and by having a number of lower-ranking officers prosecuted.

In these circumstances, the Netherlands government announced in January 1992 its willingness to resume its aid programme for Indonesia. It stated that it assumed that the Indonesian—Portuguese negotiations about the future of East Timor, which were to take place under the supervision of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, would lead to a satisfactory solution. But it added that, should these negotiations not lead to satisfactory results, it would discuss possible consequences with its European partners. This threat caused Indonesia to postpone negotiations about the distribution of the new Dutch development money and to start a diplomatic offensive in order to prevent other donor countries from associating themselves with the Dutch approach. The Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Alatas, visited a number of foreign capitals and succeeded in receiving the support he requested. On 13 February 1992, President Suharto, on the occasion of accepting the credentials of the new Dutch ambassador, spoke of Dutch "colonial" behaviour, as had become apparent from the continued Dutch interference in the domestic affairs of Indonesia. The establishment of a link between human rights and economic aid he termed "typically Western." At the same time, Mr. Pronk made preparations for his annual visit to Indonesia, which this time was to include Aceh, where human rights violations by the Indonesian army were allegedly still taking place. He was clearly not prepared for the announcement by the Indonesian government on 25 March 1992 that henceforth it did not want to receive Dutch aid any more and that it had asked the Netherlands to discontinue its chairmanship of IGGI. By way of explanation, Indonesia referred to the "reckless use of development aid as an instrument of intimidation or as a tool to threaten Indonesia." 111

Double standards?

Non-governmental criticism of the Netherlands attitude towards Indonesia did not diminish when, in December 1982, the Netherlands government unilaterally suspended its development aid to Surinam, another former Dutch colony, where 15 known opponents of the military regime had been killed in cold blood. 112 The then Minister for Development Cooperation, Mrs. Schoo, informed parliament that the bilateral treaty 113 had been suspended, because circumstances had changed so much that the continued supply of development aid could not be demanded of the Netherlands.

From the beginning, it was alleged by critics of the government that the suspension of aid to Surinam, when this was initially not done in the case of Indonesia, reflected a policy of double standards. The Netherlands government has, however, steadfastly denied that such was the case. It emphasized the unique, treaty-bound character of the development relationship with Surinam. Aid to Surinam not only was very extensive, but also formed the lion's share of total international aid to that country. A further important consideration for suspending aid was the seriousness of the human rights violations in a country that had always had a tradition of an absence of violence in politics. The December 1982 assassinations destroyed in one blow the core of the political opposition in Surinam.

Apart from these factors mentioned by the government, there were undoubtedly other political considerations as well. Surinam is a relatively small, powerless country, and the Netherlands is one of the few foreign states that has shown some real interest in its fate. The case of Indonesia is entirely different. That country is large and potentially powerful, located in a geographically important strategic position. For Dutch business interests Indonesia is far more important than Surinam. 114 Annual Dutch aid to Indonesia was small in comparison to the size of its population and represented only a small proportion of total international aid given to Indonesia.

To a certain extent the Netherlands government has definitely applied double standards with reference to Surinam and Indonesia. It claimed at the time that the assassinations in Surinam had changed the situation so drastically that continuation of the aid effort was impossible. It also pointed out that, according to its policy principles adopted earlier, development aid should never be used to support repressive regimes or lead to complicity in gross violations of human rights. The government did not say, however, that it had suspended the treaty with Surinam in order to improve the human rights situation in that country. It mentioned other means that it had used for that purpose, including the circulation of a memorandum at the 1983 session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. In Surinam, however, the suspension of aid was seen as a sanction in reaction to the violation of human rights. It certainly did not contribute to the credibility of Dutch human rights policy, especially as in both cases the same kinds of violations of human rights (summary and arbitrary executions, disappearances, torture, arbitrary arrests) were at stake.

The Dutch argument that the situation in Surinam had changed so much that, according to the international law principle "rebus sic stantibus," it was not obliged to continue its aid programme has been questioned. 115 For instance, the Advisory Committee on Human Rights and Foreign Policy has pointed out that the picture offered by Surinam before the events of 8 December 1982 was one of a continuing deterioration in the human rights situation: "The December murders should thus not be seen as an isolated incident, but as a climax in a chain of events." 116

No doubt, the Netherlands government exposed itself to criticism by suspending aid to Surinam while at the time not doing so in the case of Indonesia. It "solved" this dilemma by denying the similarity of the two cases. This did not of course silence its domestic critics. One may wonder, however, whether the government had any viable alternative. It could have avoided the accusation of applying double standards either by suspending aid to Indonesia, which at that time it did not want to do, or by continuing aid to Surinam, which was domestically not acceptable. 117 Theoretically, there was a third possibility: to admit that it was indeed applying double standards, which in the circumstances would have been the most sensible thing to do. It is not likely, however, that this third possibility was ever seriously considered. Governments prefer to present their policies as consistent and coherent. Applying double standards has no place in such a presentation.

The Advisory Committee on Human Rights and Foreign Policy has called development aid to Surinam a "classic example of a dilemma," stemming from the 1979 policy paper Human Rights in Foreign Policy. On the one hand, the Netherlands did not want to use development aid or its suspension as a reward or sanction for human rights performance (policy conclusion no. 35). On the other hand, it did not want its development aid to contribute to the continuation of repression (policy conclusion no. 38). 118 Nevertheless, the Dutch measure was widely interpreted as a form of sanction. The dilemma received extra emphasis because of the obvious comparison with the situation in Indonesia.

The Netherlands government had to face strong domestic political pressure at times. Human rights organizations have repeatedly pointed to the deficiencies in the human rights situation in Indonesia. This criticism was led by the non-governmental Indonesia Committee, which has exerted constant pressure on the Dutch government. In addition, within the Dutch Labour Party — which at times formed part of the governing coalition — and the smaller political parties of the left, continued reference was made to Dutch commitments to human rights and the consequences thereof for its relations with Indonesia. On the other hand, the Netherlands had clear economic interests that demanded extension of trade relations with Indonesia and an improved climate for investments. These interests were not served by explicit criticism of Indonesian government policies, in the realm of human rights or elsewhere.

The various Dutch governmental agencies did not always see eye to eye. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was traditionally strongly engaged in the promotion of human rights, while at the same time pursuing a policy of combating poverty as a main aim of development policy. The Ministry of Economic Affairs was mainly interested in restoring mutual trade relations. The Ministry of Education and Sciences stressed cultural relations, while the Ministry of Justice wanted to be involved in the elaboration and extension of the Indonesian legal system, which is mainly based on the old Dutch system.

VII. Conclusions

On the whole, the Netherlands government has given strong support to internationally recognized human rights, especially in the field of civil and political rights. Although it has repeatedly claimed that economic, social, and cultural rights should hold a position of equality with civil and political rights, this has been less the case in actual policy decisions. For example, the Netherlands — like most other governments — has so far refused to support the idea of an optional protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights on a right to complaint for individuals. 119 In its support for human rights, the Netherlands government has on the whole preferred individual over collective rights.

Is there going to be a future for Dutch human rights policy? That remains to be seen. The member states of the European Union have lost some of their former ability to carry out a policy of their own. For instance, in the field of international commercial policy the European organs hold exclusive authority. This means that the member states cannot independently impose economic sanctions. Also the extension of common external powers has limited the possibilities of the member states to carry out a foreign policy of their own. This does not mean, however, that a joint European foreign policy already exists. The Maastricht Treaty on European Union (1992) states that there is a Common Foreign and Security Policy that explicitly includes human rights. The recent Treaty of Amsterdam has reaffirmed that position. Whether this will indeed lead to such a common foreign policy is still very much a matter of speculation. So far, this common foreign policy has been more a matter of pious sermons than of concrete actions. 120 The failure on the part of the member states to sponsor a joint resolution on China at the 1997 session of the UN Commission on Human Rights serves as an illustration of the failure to reach a common position on an issue of human rights. It seems fair to assume that, at least in the near future, there will be room for the Netherlands to conduct a human rights policy of its own. One of the more "positive" consequences of the China incident was that the Dutch Foreign Minister, Hans van Mierlo, who had been the target of domestic criticism before for his alleged lack of initiative in the area of human rights, from now on was regarded at home as an active figure in the struggle for human rights in China. His third follow-up memorandum on human rights and foreign policy, which was shortly afterward debated in parliament, consequently met with little comment or criticism. With regard to human rights violations in Turkey, the Netherlands has in recent years been as cautious as most other Western governments.

In Dutch political life, human rights — and development assistance policy — remain an almost sacred subject. The least the government must do — like many other governments — is to pay lip-service to the issue. Members of parliament, the press, and informed public opinion want more than that, however. The government is expected to take initiatives on a world-wide scale to show its commitment to human rights. However, there are also countervailing tendencies to put more emphasis on national (economic) interests. In the original report that resulted from the major review of foreign policy, more attention was paid to such interests than to human rights. Within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a thematic directorate for "conflict, humanitarian assistance and human rights" was to be created, which was to combine perspectives of foreign policy, development cooperation, and military considerations. 121 The protests, especially from human rights NGOs, with which these proposals were received forced the government to revise them. What resulted was the creation of a thematic directorate "Human Rights, Good Governance and Democratization," whose aim is "to promote a strong and consistent bilateral and multilateral policy in the field of human rights, good governance and democratization." 122 This directorate comprises 21 people, which makes it — at least quantitatively — one of the stronger sections within the ministry. A separate directorate now deals with Crisis Management and Humanitarian Assistance. The incident does not necessarily prove that more attention will be paid to human rights — that depends in the end on the political leadership given by the Foreign Minister. But it does show that the activities of the minister in the field of human rights, including the organization of his department, are closely watched by the human rights community, which continues to possess a considerable amount of political leverage. The amount of attention that is paid to issues of human rights does not tell us much about what policy decisions will be taken.

Foreign policy in general and human rights policy in particular generate policy dilemmas that are not easy to resolve. 123 An illustration is the conflict that can arise between human rights policy and development assistance policy, as occurred in the relations of the Netherlands with its two former colonies, Indonesia and Surinam. Its policy toward both countries has not been very successful. Indonesia showed its disdain for Dutch human rights considerations by unilaterally breaking off the development aid relationship. In the case of Surinam, the Netherlands seems to have influenced the domestic political situation only marginally — if at all. 124 If there was a case of applying double standards, as has widely been suggested, this has not helped the credibility of Dutch policies. However, in the case of foreign policy, some degree of double standards is not always avoidable. It may be true that Dutch policy-makers lacked a degree of subtlety and refinement in dealing with Indonesia, but that was mainly a matter of political style, not of content. The content of human rights policy towards Indonesia was fully in accordance with the principles and objectives set out in the 1979 policy memorandum.

In the case of Srebrenica, Dutch foreign policy-makers 125 were, for the first time since the failed reaction to the Indonesian independence movement in the late 1940s, directly confronted with gross human rights violations. It is difficult to say whether the civilian and military leaders, the officers, and the enlisted men could or should have done more. What may be learnt from the experience is that, before becoming engaged in such an operation, one should weigh the political and military risks one is going to face even more carefully. It seems to be certain that the Dutch military in the field were singularly unprepared for what eventually happened. With the benefit of hindsight one can say that it might have been wiser or smarter not to participate in UNPROFOR in the first place. However, for a country that prides itself on international engagement and its role in the promotion and protection of human rights, what is smarter is not necessarily the most noble policy. The experience in Srebrenica created a collective trauma that will not easily be overcome.

Has the human rights policy of the Netherlands lived up to the admiring description by Jan Egeland, quoted at the beginning of this chapter? It may be that Egeland was already exaggerating a bit when he wrote his article in 1984. The Netherlands is not a holy country and the dilemmas it faces are not easier to resolve than those of other countries. It may be true that the Netherlands government pays somewhat more attention to the views of an enlightened public opinion, which does not mean that it always acts according to the wishes of that public opinion. As has been shown in this chapter, the record has been one of successes and failures. Therefore, rather than subscribing to Egeland's glowing account, it seems to be more correct to describe the Netherlands human rights policy as one of trials and errors. Both should be seen as part of a learning experience.


I want to express my thanks to Ineke Boerefijn, Monique Castermans, Fred Gr¸nfeld, and Tiemo Oostenbrink for their comments and to Mignon Senders for her comments and research assistance.


Note 1: Jan Egeland, "Focus on Human Rights—Ineffective Big States, Potent Small States," Journal of Peace Research 21/3 (1984), 210.  Back.

Note 2: By now a classic description is J. J. C. Voorhoeve, Peace, Profits and Principles: A Study of Dutch Foreign Policy (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1979).  Back.

Note 3: The Netherlands has 15 million inhabitants in a territory of 16,000 sq. miles.  Back.

Note 4: See Peter R. Baehr, "The Netherlands and the United Nations: The Future Lies in the Past," in Chadwick F. Alger, Gene M. Lyons, and John E. Trent, eds., The United Nations System: The Policies of Member States (Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 1995), 271-328.  Back.

Note 5: See Bas de Gaay Fortman, "De Vredespolitiek van de Radicalen" [The Peace Politics of the Radicals], Internationale Spectator 27/4 (February 1973), 109-113.  Back.

Note 6: For a number of relevant case-studies see P. P. Everts, ed., Controversies at Home: Domestic Factors in the Foreign Policy of the Netherlands (Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff, 1985). A summary is contained in Peter R. Baehr and Fred Gr¸nfeld, "Mensenrechten en Buitenlands Beleid: Goedkope Solidariteit" [Human Rights and Foreign Policy: Inexpensive Solidarity], Intermediair 21/4 (1 November 1985), 53-59.  Back.

Note 7: See Peter R. Baehr, "Problems of Aid Conditionality: The Netherlands and Indonesia," Third World Quarterly 18/2 (June 1997), 363-376.  Back.

Note 8: Voorhoeve, Peace, Profits and Principles, op. cit., 281.  Back.

Note 9: Ibid., 49 ff.  Back.

Note 10: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, Human Rights and Foreign Policy, Memorandum presented to the Lower House of the States General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands on 3 May 1979 by the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Development Cooperation. Second Chamber of the States General, 1978-1979, 15571, nos. 1-2. References are to the official English version of that document; hereafter cited as Human Rights and Foreign Policy. Since then, the Foreign Minister has sent three follow-up memoranda to parliament, which basically confirmed the outlines of the 1979 paper: Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal, 1986-1987, 19700, no. 125; Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal, 1990-1991, 21 800, no. 91; Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal, 1996-1997, 25300, no. 1. Of these memoranda no official English translations are available.  Back.

Note 11: In a meeting with the Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs, 5 June 1997, Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal, 1996-1997, 25300, no. 3, p. 11. During that meeting, the Minister for Development Cooperation, Jan Pronk, made the same point (ibid., p. 16).  Back.

Note 12: Human Rights and Foreign Policy, op. cit., 10.  Back.

Note 13: Ibid.  Back.

Note 14: Ibid., 96.  Back.

Note 15: Ibid., 134, conclusion no. 14.  Back.

Note 16: Ibid., 71.  Back.

Note 17: Ibid., 12.  Back.

Note 18: Advisory Committee on Human Rights and Foreign Policy, Collective Rights, Advisory Report No. 19 (The Hague: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 1995).  Back.

Note 19: Letter from the Foreign Minister to the Chairman of the Advisory Committee on Human Rights and Foreign Policy, 5 March 1996 (translated from the original Dutch). The Minister reconfirmed his position in a second letter, dated 19 November 1996.  Back.

Note 20: Human Rights and Foreign Policy, op. cit., 10.  Back.

Note 21: In its 1997 memorandum, the government reaffirmed that "there are only few collective rights which cannot better be defined as individual rights." Only the right of self-determination was mentioned as "perhaps" an exception to this rule. Voortgangsnotitie Rechten van de Mens in het Buitenlands Beleid [Progress Report on Human Rights in Foreign Policy], Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal, 1996-1997, 25300, no. 1, 9 April 1997, p. 3 (translated from the original Dutch).  Back.

Note 22: Human Rights and Foreign Policy, op. cit., 13.  Back.

Note 23: Ibid., 11.  Back.

Note 24: Ibid., 139, conclusion no. 39.  Back.

Note 25: Ibid., 138, conclusion no. 35.  Back.

Note 26: Ibid., 138, conclusion no. 34.  Back.

Note 27: A World of Difference: A New Framework for Development Cooperation in the 1990s, Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal, 1990-1991, 21813, nos. 1-2; hereafter cited as A World of Difference. Though written by Mr. Pronk, it reflects official governmental policies.  Back.

Note 28: This paragraph is partly based on a study by Oda van Cranenburgh, "Development Cooperation and Human Rights: Linkage Politics in the Netherlands," in Peter R. Baehr, Hilde Hey, Jacqueline Smith, and Theresa Swinehart, eds., Human Rights in Developing Countries: Yearbook 1995 (The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1995), 29-55.  Back.

Note 29: A World of Difference, op. cit., 61.  Back.

Note 30: Ibid., 61.  Back.

Note 31: Ibid., 171.  Back.

Note 32: Ibid., 211.  Back.

Note 33: A World in Dispute (The Hague: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1993).  Back.

Note 34: Ibid., 26.  Back.

Note 35: Human Rights and Foreign Policy, op. cit., 135, conclusion no. 20.  Back.

Note 36: Ibid., 133, conclusion no. 14.  Back.

Note 37: Ibid., 136, conclusion no. 24.  Back.

Note 38: Ibid., 135, conclusion no. 19.  Back.

Note 39: Ibid., 135, conclusion no. 21.  Back.

Note 40: Ibid., 134, conclusion no. 14.  Back.

Note 41: Ibid., 133, conclusion no. 13.  Back.

Note 42: Ibid., 134, conclusion no. 14.  Back.

Note 43: Ibid., 134, conclusion no. 17.  Back.

Note 44: Ibid., 134, conclusion no. 18.  Back.

Note 45: Ibid., 134, conclusion no. 17.  Back.

Note 46: Ibid., 134, conclusion no. 15.  Back.

Note 47: Ibid., 134, conclusion no. 14.  Back.

Note 48: Ibid., 134, conclusion no. 19.  Back.

Note 49: Ibid., 135, conclusion no. 20.  Back.

Note 50: Voortgangsnotitie Rechten van de Mens in het Buitenlands Beleid, op. cit., 7 (translated from the original Dutch). It is not clear whether or not the reference to the "tracks" is the same as earlier statements that human rights are "a central element" of Dutch foreign policy.  Back.

Note 51: J. Herman Burgers, "Dutch Nongovernmental Organizations and Foreign Policy in the Field of Human Rights," in P. J. van Krieken & C. O. Pannenborg, eds., Liber Akkerman: In- and Outlaws in War (Apeldoorn/Antwerpen: MAKLU, 1992), 161: "The bulk of the protesters opposed the American warfare in Vietnam because they thought it inflicted unjustifiable suffering on the Vietnamese people and not because they wanted to side with the East in the East-West conflict."  Back.

Note 52: Commission Justitia et Pax, Dutch Refugee Council, YWCA Netherlands, Working Group Human Rights of the Netherlands Council of Churches, League for Human Rights, the Netherlands Organization for International Development Cooperation, Women's Consultation Group for Development Policy, and the Committee for International Cooperation and Sustainable Development.  Back.

Note 53: C. Flinterman and Y. S. Klerk, "The Advisory Committee on Human Rights and Foreign Policy in the Netherlands," Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights 11/3 (1993), 283-292.  Back.

Note 54: Almost all of these reports have been translated into English and can be obtained from the Secretary of the Committee at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The following reports were issued:

1. "On an Equal Footing: Foreign Affairs and Human Rights" (1984)

2. "Support for Human Rights: Suriname and Human Rights" (1984)

3. "Crossing Borders: The Right to Leave a Country and the Right to Return" (1986)

4. "Freedom of Information" (1986)

5. "Development Co-operation and Human Rights" (1987)

6. "Threatened Women and Refugee Status" (1987)

7. "Human Rights Conventions under UN Supervision" (1988)

8. "Towards a Semi-permanent European Commission of Human Rights" (1989)

9. "The International Mechanism for Supervising Observance of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms" (1990)

10. "Harmonisation of Asylum Law in Western Europe" (1990)

11. "Democracy and Human Rights in Eastern Europe" (1990)

12. "Human Rights and International Economic Relations" (1991)

13. "The Human Dimension of CSCE" (1991)

14. "The Traffic in Persons" (1992)

15. "The Use of Force for Humanitarian Purposes" (1992)

16. "Indigenous Peoples" (1993)

17. "The 1993 World Conference on Human Rights" (1993)

18. "Economic, Social and Cultural Human Rights" (1994)

19. "Collective Rights" (1995)

20. "The Role of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities" (1996)

21. "The European Union and Human Rights" (1996)

22. "UN Supervision of Human Rights" (1996)

23. "National Minorities, with particular reference to Central- and Eastern Europe" (1996)  Back.

Note 55: Currently, the cabinet is made up of members of the Labour Party, the Liberal Party, and D66.  Back.

Note 56: Christian Democratic Appeal, Samen Leven Doe Je Niet Alleen [You Do Not Live Together on Your Own], Draft Election Programme 1998-2002, 40.  Back.

Note 57: Labour Party, Een Wereld te Winnen [To Gain a World], Draft Election Programme 1998-2002, 58.  Back.

Note 58: People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, Investeren in de Toekomst [Investing in the Future], Draft Electoral Programme 1998-2002, 53.  Back.

Note 59: D66, Bewogen in Beweging [Moved in Movement], Draft Election Programme 1998-2002, 52.  Back.

Note 60: This arrangement lasted until 1996, when, as the result of a major review of foreign affairs, a separate division for Human Rights, Democracy, and Good Governance was created within the ministry.  Back.

Note 61: This view has been reaffirmed by his successor as Foreign Minister, Hans van Mierlo. See Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal, 1996-1997, 25300, no. 4, p. 5.  Back.

Note 62: Foreign Minister Hans van Mierlo was in addition the political leader of one of the three political parties that made up the government coalition. This made his political position almost unassailable.  Back.

Note 63: Researchers from the Netherlands Research School on Human Rights are now engaged in studying whether or not this decrease in attention is also true of the ministry itself and, if so, why.  Back.

Note 64: Attention should also be paid to the media, which act both as a channel of communication and as a political factor in their own right.  Back.

Note 65: Parts of this and the following paragraphs have been taken from: Peter R. Baehr and Monique C. Castermans-Holleman, "The Promotion of Human Rights—The Netherlands at the UN," in Peter R. Baehr and Monique C. Castermans-Holleman, eds., The Netherlands and the United Nations: Selected Issues (The Hague: T. M. C. Asser Institute, 1990), 29-30.  Back.

Note 66: UNGA Resolution 37/194.  Back.

Note 67: For a detailed presentation of this case-study, see Peter R. Baehr, "The General Assembly: Negotiating the Convention on Torture," in David P. Forsythe, ed., The United Nations in the World Political Economy: Essays in Honor of Leon Gordenker (London: Macmillan, 1989), 36-53. See also J. Herman Burgers, "An Arduous Delivery: The United Nations Convention against Torture (1984)," in Johan Kaufmann, ed., Effective Negotiation: Case Studies in Conference Diplomacy (Dordrecht: Kluwer, 1989), 45-52. It then took the Netherlands four years before it finally ratified the Convention. The Netherlands had not yet ratified the Convention when it entered into force in 1987, precluding it from being a candidate for membership of the Committee against Torture, which supervises observance of the Convention. This delay was partly caused by Dutch legal tradition, which calls for a meticulous search of needed changes in domestic legislation before a treaty is ratified. In other countries, a treaty may be ratified at an earlier stage, while the process of studying domestic legislation is still in progress.  Back.

Note 68: This was recalled by the Commission in 1995 in a resolution in which it appealed to states to enact legislation and to take measures aimed at exemption from military service on the basis of genuinely held conscientious objection to armed service (Resolution 1995/83). See also Report of the Secretary-General Prepared Pursuant to Commission Resolution 1995/83, E/CN.4/1997/99, 16 January 1997.  Back.

Note 69: He served in that position until 1993, when he was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs. Nigel Rodley, a British subject and former legal adviser to Amnesty International, succeeded him as UN Rapporteur on Torture.  Back.

Note 70: Advisory Report no. 20 (The Hague: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, January 1996).  Back.

Note 71: Advisory Report no. 22 (The Hague: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, October 1996).  Back.

Note 72: "Human Rights Questions: Human Rights Situations and Reports of Special Rapporteurs and Special Representatives," UNGA A/52/64, 29 January 1997.  Back.

Note 73: In this paper, no fine distinction is made between violations of human rights law and humanitarian law. For the victims of extra-judicial executions, torture, abduction, rape, and arbitrary detention, such as have happened in the former Yugoslavia and elsewhere, it does not make much difference whether such abuses occur in a situation that is legally defined as a state of war or non-war.  Back.

Note 74: UN Security Council Resolution 819, 16 April 1993.  Back.

Note 75: The operation was at first perceived in the Netherlands as having been quite successful. See Leon Wecke, "Het Jaar van de Nasleep: De Val van Srebrenica" [The Year of Aftermath: The Fall of Srebrenica], Jaarboek Vrede en Veiligheid (Nijmegen: Studiecentrum voor Vredesvraagstukken, 1996), 136. The Dutch soldiers were received in Zagreb, Croatia, in a festive ceremony attended by a number of Dutch dignitaries, including Crown Prince Willem Alexander, Prime Minister Wim Kok, and Minister of Defence Joris Voorhoeve: "A party, complete with a forty-two-piece brass band playing Glenn Miller songs, cases of beer and drunken Dutch soldiers dancing in a chorus line, was thrown that afternoon" (David Rohde, A Safe Area: Srebrenica: Europe's Worst Massacre Since the Second World War, London: Pocket Books, 1997, 325). The authorities only later realized that this grand reception was quite out of proportion to what had happened.  Back.

Note 76: Jan Willem Honig and Norbert Both, Srebrenica: Record of a War Crime (Harmondsworth, Middx: Penguin Books, 1996). According to official UN figures, 7,079 men were listed as missing. See also Frank Westerman and Bart Rijs, Srebrenica: Het Zwartste Scenario [Srebrenica: The Blackest Scenario] (Amsterdam/Antwerp: Uitgeverij Atlas, 1997).  Back.

Note 77: Letter from the Minister of Foreign Affairs to the Parliamentary Committees of Foreign Affairs and Defence, 24 June 1996; letter from the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and of Defence to the Second Chamber of parliament, 6 September 1996: "The government was forced to conclude that such an investigation was seen as most unusual and lacking sufficient support.... Therefore, the government has decided not to put a formal request to the Secretary-General" (translated from the original Dutch). In a letter dated 28 October 1996, the Foreign Minister elaborated this point as follows: "It must be concluded that our conversation partners [in New York] showed a certain amount of embarrassment about the Dutch probes. On the one hand, they did not want to offend the Netherlands, while on the other hand, they did not consider the investigation desired by the Netherlands as opportune at this juncture of the Bosnian problem. It is against this background that one should view the official reaction by the UN Secretary-General, when he stated that a possible request by the Netherlands to the UN to start an independent investigation would be without precedent and raise many preliminary questions. Only when clarity had been reached about these questions, could he determine how and under whose responsibility such an investigation could be executed" (Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal, 1996-1997, 25069, no. 2, 28 October 1996, translated from the original Dutch). For the parliamentary debate about this letter, see Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal, 1996-1997, 25069, no. 6, 13 November 1996.  Back.

Note 78: "RIOD-onderzoek naar Srebrenica kan jaren duren" [RIOD Research on Srebrenica May Take Years], De Volkskrant (Amsterdam), 31 October 1996.  Back.

Note 79: Though perhaps less so than in the case of Canada, Belgium, and Italy, whose soldiers serving with the United Nations peacekeeping force in Somalia were themselves alleged to have taken part in cruel, inhuman, or degrading behaviour toward Somalian civilians.  Back.

Note 80: According to Honig and Both, the heavier weapons were considered "too heavy and too aggressive" (Honig and Both, Srebrenica, op. cit., 125).  Back.

Note 81: Studies published so far tend to put a great deal of blame on the commander of UNPROFOR, French general Bernard Janvier, who refused to give the necessary orders. Rohde (A Safe Area, op. cit., 368) calls Janvier "more responsible than any other individual for the fall of Srebrenica."  Back.

Note 82: A systematic debriefing took place later. On the basis of the debriefing, a report was published by the Ministry of Defence: Rapport Gebaseerd op de Debriefing Srebrenica [Report Based on Debriefing Srebrenica], Assen, 4 October 1995. Rohde (A Safe Area, op. cit., 327-328) calls this debriefing report "an exercise in obfuscation."  Back.

Note 83: In addition to its obligatory assessment of 495,000 guilders (about US$250,000), the Dutch government spends an annual amount of about 5.8 million guilders (US$2.9 million) on security, telephone costs, etc. (information supplied by the Permanent Mission of the Netherlands to the United Nations in New York).  Back.

Note 84: From 1993 to 1995, Professor Theo van Boven; since 1995, Mrs. Dorothee de Sampayo Garrido-Nijgh.  Back.

Note 85: See David P. Forsythe, "International Criminal Courts: A Political View," Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights 15/1 (March 1997), 5-19.  Back.

Note 86: Joint Declaration on Fundamental Rights by the European Parliament, Council and Commission of 5 April 1977, [1977] OJ C 103/1; Declaration on Human Rights of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs meeting in the framework of European Political Cooperation and Council, 21 July 1986, Bull. EC 7/8-1986, 2.4.4; Declaration on Human Rights of the Luxembourg European Council (28 and 29 June 1991), in C. Duparc, The European Community and Human Rights (Luxembourg: Office for official publications of the European Communities, 1993), 48-51.  Back.

Note 87: The Treaty of Amsterdam, which was concluded in June 1997 and which has not yet entered into force, basically leaves this situation unchanged. The European Council of Ministers may take decisions by unanimity "on common strategies to be implemented by the Union in areas where the Member States have important interests in common."  Back.

Note 88: M. C. Castermans-Holleman, "De 53e Zitting van de VN Commissie voor de Rechten van de Mens" [The 53rd Session of the UN Commission on Human Rights], NJCM Bulletin 22/5 (1997), 668.  Back.

Note 89: Johannes van der Klaauw, "European Union," Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights 15/2 (June 1997), 210.  Back.

Note 90: See also Ann Kent, "China and the International Human Rights Regime: A Case Study of Multilateral Monitoring, 1989-1994," Human Rights Quarterly 17/1 (February 1995), 1-47  Back.

Note 91: However, the Dutch Foreign Minister, Hans van Mierlo, addressing the Commission on Human Rights on behalf of the European Union on 13 March 1997, had castigated China for keeping a well-known human rights defender, Wei Jingsheng, imprisoned. On 8 April 1997, the Dutch delegate, Peter van Wulfften Palthe, again speaking on behalf of the European Union, criticized China for its "system of re-education through labour and the excessive use of the death penalty." He continued as follows: "The continued and increased prosecution of those with dissenting views is a worrying development, as well as the number of people detained arbitrarily or detained simply because of their views. We are also concerned about human rights in Tibet. We call upon the government of China to cease all activities that threaten the distinct cultural, ethnic and religious identity of Tibetans. We also remain concerned about prison conditions in China. Notably, we deplore the lack of medical care and the use of forced labour." I have been assured by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs that this speech had received the prior approval of all members of the EU. Apparently, the political issue was the possible adoption of a resolution, not so much a speech that was equally critical of China's human rights record.  Back.

Note 92: Max van der Stoel, "De Rol van de Hoge Commissaris inzake Nationale Minderheden [The Role of the High Commissioner on National Minorities], Internationale Spectator 48/3 (March 1994), 102.  Back.

Note 93: See Rob Zaagman and Joanne Thorburn, The Role of the High Commissioner on National Minorities in OSCE Conflict Prevention: An Introduction (The Hague: Foundation on Inter-Ethnic Relations, June 1997).  Back.

Note 94: These two organs were merged when the 11th Protocol entered into force in 1998. See Yvonne Klerk, "Protocol No. 11 to the European Convention for Human Rights: A Drastic Revision of the Supervisory Mechanism under the ECHR," Netherlands Quarterly of Human Rights 14/1 (March 1996), 35-46.  Back.

Note 95: Voortgangsnotitie Rechten van de Mens in het Buitenlands Beleid, 29-31.  Back.

Note 96: Ibid., 30.  Back.

Note 97: Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal, 1996-1997, 25300, no. 3, 5 June 1997, p. 12.  Back.

Note 98: See Leo Zwaak, "A Friendly Settlement in the European Inter-State Complaints Against Turkey," SIM Newsletter 13 (February 1986), 44-48. This critical view was confirmed in December 1992, when the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture issued a rare public report, which concluded that the practice of torture and other forms of severe ill-treatment of persons in police custody still remained widespread in Turkey. See European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, Public Statement on Turkey, adopted on 15 December 1992. The Committee reiterated its criticism of Turkish practices in another public report, issued in December 1996: Public Statement on Turkey, CPT/Inf(96)34, 6 December 1996. Turkey was one of five countries selected by Amnesty International for special attention in its submission to the 1997 session of the UN Commission on Human Rights: 1997 UN Commission on Human Rights—50 Years Old, AI INDEX: IOR 41/01/97, January 1997.  Back.

Note 99: During a parliamentary debate, the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hans van Mierlo, said that the states' complaints procedure under the European Convention on Human Rights was only seldom used because of the political nature of such complaints. The minister also said that Turkey was repeatedly addressed in the Council of Europe for its violations of human rights and that therefore less attention was given to it in other international gatherings. "It must be stated that the states' complaint has not met with the expectations of its designers, which could be a reason to think about other, better forms" (Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal, 1996-1997, 25300, no. 3, 5 June 1997, pp. 15-16; translated from the original Dutch).  Back.

Note 100: This paragraph contains material that was published before in Peter R. Baehr, "Problems of Aid Conditionality: The Netherlands and Indonesia," Third World Quarterly, 18/2 (June 1997), 363-376.  Back.

Note 101: For a comparative case-study, see Peter R. Baehr, Hilde Selbervik, and Arne Tostensen, "Responses to Human Rights Criticism: Kenya-Norway and Indonesia-the Netherlands," in Baehr, Hey, Smith, and Swinehart, eds., Human Rights in Developing Countries: Yearbook 1995, op. cit., 57-87.  Back.

Note 102: The statement was made before the murderous coup d'ètat of Prime Minister Hun Sen in July 1997.  Back.

Note 103: Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal, 1996-1997, 25300, no. 3, 5 June 1997, p. 17.  Back.

Note 104: For an account of similar problems in the relationship between the Netherlands and Vietnam, see Duco Hellema, "Nederland en de Wederopbouw van Vietnam" [The Netherlands and the Reconstruction of Vietnam], Internationale Spectator 47/7-8 (July/August 1993), 426-434.  Back.

Note 105: Peer Baneke, Nederland en de Indonesische Gevangenen [The Netherlands and the Indonesian Prisoners] (Amsterdam: Wiardi Beckman Stichting, 1983), 9.  Back.

Note 106: As late as August 1995, on the occasion of the celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of Indonesian independence, three prominent political prisoners were released, including former deputy prime minister Subandrio, who had been under arrest for 30 years.  Back.

Note 107: Draft policy review paper on Indonesia, as quoted by Mr. Pronk himself in Baneke, Nederland en de Indonesische Gevangenen, op. cit., 100.  Back.

Note 108: See Hans Goderbauer, "Indonesia and East Timor," in Bârd Anders Andreassen and Theresa Swinehart, eds., Human Rights in Developing Countries Yearbook 1993 (Oslo: Nordic Human Rights Publications, 1993), 137. For a comparative analysis of Canadian and Dutch reaction see David Gillies, Between Principle and Practice: Human Rights in North-South Relations (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1996), 174-198.  Back.

Note 109: Nico G. Schulte Nordholt, "Aid and Conditionality: The Case of Dutch-Indonesian Relationships," in Olav Stokke, ed., Aid and Political Conditionality (London: Frank Cass, 1995), 141.  Back.

Note 110: Katarina Tomasevski, Development Aid and Human Rights Revisited (London: Pinter, 1993), 113. The United States stopped its aid programme to Indonesia in June 1992. But Tomasevski comments: "Indonesia did not lose much aid—at the donor meeting in July 1992 USD 4. 94 billion was approved, more than the previous year, and even slightly more than the World Bank had recommended." See also Andrew MacIntyre, "Indonesia in 1992: Coming to Terms with the Outside World," Asian Survey 2 (February 1993), 204-211.  Back.

Note 111: Press release by the Indonesian government, 25 March 1992.  Back.

Note 112: See Nederlands Juristen ComitÈ voor de Rechten van de Mens, "De Gebeurtenissen in Paramaribo, Suriname, 8-13 December 1982: de Gewelddadige Dood van 14 Surinamers en 1 Nederlander" [The Events in Paramaribo, Suriname, 8-13 December 1982: The Violent Death of 14 Surinamese and 1 Dutchman], 14 February 1983; "De Recente Gebeurtenissen in Suriname: Verslag van een Mondeling Overleg" [The Recent Events in Suriname: Report of an Oral Consultation], Tweede Kamer der Staten-Generaal, 1982-1983, 17723, no. 1.; Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Suriname, OAS/Ser.L/II.61 Doc. 6, Rev. 1, 5 October 1983; SIM, "Suriname," in Manfred Nowak and Theresa Swinehart, eds., Human Rights in Developing Countries Yearbook 1989 (Kehl: N. P. Engel, 1989), 352-375; Marcel Zwamborn, "Suriname," in Bârd-Anders Andreassen and Theresa Swinehart, eds., Human Rights in Developing Countries Yearbook 1991 (Oslo: Scandinavian University Press, 1992), 286-314; Caroline Ort, "Suriname," in Baehr, Hey, Smith, and Swinehart, eds., Human Rights in Developing Countries Yearbook 1995, op. cit., 367-401.  Back.

Note 113: Development cooperation between Surinam and the Netherlands formed part of a bilateral treaty concluded in 1975, according to which the Netherlands was obligated to provide 3,500 million guilders over a period of 10-15 years to Surinam to carry out a long-term development programme.  Back.

Note 114: That was made evident when in August 1995 no fewer than 50 high-ranking representatives of Dutch business firms—the largest delegation of its kind—visited Indonesia in the wake of Queen Beatrix's official visit.  Back.

Note 115: See Dionne Bosma, "The Dutch-Suriname Treaty on Development Assistance: A Correct Appeal to Fundamental Change of Circumstances?" Leiden Journal of International Law 3/2 (October 1990), 201-220.  Back.

Note 116: Advisory Committee on Human Rights and Foreign Policy, Aid for Human Rights: Suriname and Human Rights, Advisory Report No. 2 (The Hague: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1984), 13 (translation from the original Dutch).  Back.

Note 117: The Advisory Committee on Human Rights and Foreign Policy has called the suspension of aid to Surinam "politically unavoidable" (Aid for Human Rights, op. cit., 22).  Back.

Note 118: Ibid., 20.  Back.

Note 119: This idea was proposed by the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and received support from the Dutch Advisory Committee on Human Rights and Foreign Policy: Economic, Social and Cultural Human Rights, Advisory Report no. 18 (The Hague, 1994), 15-16.  Back.

Note 120: The European Parliament has adopted a resolution in which it expressed its disappointment at the lack of progress in the development of a common foreign policy. Sending delegates to places of crisis was not considered sufficient. The EU ignores situations where agreements on human rights and democratization are being violated. The member states were asked to give their unconditional support to the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the Union, as stipulated in the Maastricht Treaty (Resolution A4-0193/97).  Back.

Note 121: De Herijking van het Buitenlands Beleid [Review of Foreign Policy] (The Hague: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, September 1995), 41.  Back.

Note 122: Formatieplan Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken [Job Formation Plan Ministry of Foreign Affairs] (The Hague: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1996), 59.  Back.

Note 123: See Philip P. Everts, ed., Dilemma's in de Buitenlandse Politiek van Nederland [Dilemmas in the Foreign Policy of the Netherlands] (Leiden: DSWO Press, 1996).  Back.

Note 124: The man who is widely regarded as the mastermind behind the 1982 assassinations, Colonel Desi Bouterse, currently holds the position of senior adviser to the government of Surinam, and is reputedly the real political leader of the country. Because of his alleged involvement in the international trade in drugs, the Netherlands government asked Interpol in early August 1997 to circulate an international call for his arrest. This helped to further freeze the relations between the two countries.  Back.

Note 125: It remains a matter of surprise that it was the Minister of Defence, rather than the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who was the main butt of public criticism on the issue of Srebrenica.  Back.