Renewing the system: the individual protection system
In the wake of the murders of the brother, lawyer and confidential advisor of the key witness in the Marengo trial, the Dutch Safety Board investigated the lessons to be drawn from the security circumstances of these three individuals.
Today, Justice and Security Minister Yeşilgöz-Zegerius responded on behalf of the cabinet to the findings of the investigation and the recommendations of the Safety Board.
“It has become clear that mistakes were made, such as insufficient exchange of intelligence between investigation and surveillance and security. The concerns of the persons and loved ones to be protected were also insufficiently addressed. It is deeply regrettable that these mistakes were made and, as the minister responsible, I have apologized to the relatives for this. I am also deeply aware that the indescribable suffering inflicted on the relatives by ruthless criminals cannot be repaired,”
The cabinet endorses the thorough analysis and conclusions of the Safety Board and will incorporate all recommendations when organizing the new system of surveillance and security. In anticipation of the Safety Board’s report, improvements in management, information exchange and implementation within the surveillance and security system have already been addressed in recent years. These recent improvements were necessary adjustments within the existing (legal) frameworks of the system. As a result, the current system is already functioning differently than it did several years ago. The improvements implemented within the system are not sufficient to cope with the increasing new threats from organized undermining crime, radicalized individuals, combined with the threat posed by terrorism and state actors in the future. The system is therefore in need of renewal.
Outline new system for protecting individuals
The new system – the individual protection system – focuses on protecting critically at-risk individuals from these threats. This system must be more straightforward, more threat-oriented and more transparent than the current surveillance and security system. In the new system, the individual to be protected remains the central focus and greater transparency will be introduced wherever possible.
“Within the new system for protecting individuals, extra attention is given to the persons to be secured. An ever-growing group of lawyers, judges, journalists and politicians is experiencing the intense consequences of a serious threat and the security measures needed to resist it every day. They face various types of threats. This requires measures appropriate to the threat, flexibility and attention to the individual,”
A unified authority will be established in the new system, eliminating the complex governance in place under the current system. This authority will be executed by the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security (NCTV). The analysis role will be innovated to improve threat assessments and analyses and access to information for the purpose of this analysis role. By further developing joint security concepts and packages, the execution of security tasks by the police and the Royal Military Police will become more uniform.
In addition, a specific legal framework for the individual protection system must be established, which, among other things, regulates the new division of responsibilities and prescribes the necessary information sharing in the context of surveillance and security. If someone is threatened so seriously from organized undermining crime, radicalized individuals, or from the threat from terrorism and state actors that personal security measures may be needed, several parties will become involved. In addition to the individuals to be protected themselves, the employer and the government will also have a role to play. Frameworks are being established regarding what can be expected from each of these parties. This will examine whether and how this can provide the basis for further interpretation of the rights and obligations for persons to be protected. In addition to the NCTV’s own monitoring and the supervision of the Justice and Security Inspectorate, a new independent advisory body will also be established to advise on the quality of the operation of the new system and its further development.
Coherence with crown witness system and witness protection
The government agrees that a clear demarcation is needed between the individual protection system and the witness protection programme. In witness protection it is also crucial to set clear (legal) frameworks for further interpretation of the rights and obligations of all parties involved. Agreements with crown witnesses can and should only be made if it is justified in view of their safety, that of their surroundings and officials. Integral consideration and review should take place, with explicit attention to the safety and ethical aspects of the security measures. In addition, the government is examining in what form independent review of the witness protection agreement can be shaped. As far as the Cabinet is concerned, the announced broadening of the crown witness system will take effect when these and the previously announced improvements have been realized.
Establishing the new system and developing a specific legal framework requires a proper and adequate process and will not be finalized overnight. The improvements that can be initiated immediately will be implemented without delay. For instance, the cooperation with the person to be protected will be more substantive. Likewise, arrangements can and should only be made with a crown witness if it is justified in view of their safety, that of their immediate family and officials. In anticipation of the specific legal framework, the renewal of working agreements between partners on surveillance and security – which are stipulated in the Surveillance and Security Circular – in July provides opportunities for the next round of improvements. In addition, the independent advisory body will be launched in the short term. A strategy must be adopted to allow the system to function on a day-to-day basis, while allowing the necessary innovations to take place already at this stage as much as possible. During this transition phase, attention will naturally be continuously focused on the safety and well-being of those to be protected by the system.
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