“It is imperative that the justice system be ready to listen to allegations and to thoroughly investigate allegations no matter when they are raised – and no matter who is accused,” said Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.), chairman of the commission.
In a recent report on human trafficking, the U.S. recognized the Netherlands as having “Tier 1 Status,” meaning that the country fully complies with minimum standards to fight human trafficking.
However, Smith argued, the anti-trafficking laws in the country are not being properly enforced.
The briefing focused on allegations against Joris Demmink, the Secretary General at the Ministry of Justice in the Netherlands.
Demmink has been accused of raping two young teenage boys, now adults, while visiting Turkey in the 1990s.
The boys' lawyer, Adèle van der Plas, said that the criminal charges filed on behalf of these boys were never officially investigated, despite the availability of primary witnesses. One of the accusers has reportedly faced threats and abuse for coming forward with his story.
Rather than investigate the matter, she said, the government accepted Demmink’s claim that he was not in Turkey in the 1990s.
While Turkish sources have evidence to suggest that this is not accurate, she said, “there is considerable pressure exerted on the Turks by the Dutch not to reveal the truth.”
The Turkish allegations are not the first time that a similar investigation has been deterred, van der Plas said. She explained that in 1998, Amsterdam police began an investigation into “a pedophile network of influential Dutch customers of boys brothels.”
However, “as soon as Demmink became a person of interest in this matter, the investigation was shut down” and law enforcement officers “were forced to sign non-disclosure agreements,” she said.
A key witness from the 1998 investigation also testified at the briefing, telling about how he was deceived in an Amsterdam train station at age 14, kidnapped and forced to work in a brothel, where he was repeatedly abused by pedophiles and forced to make child pornography films.
At one point, he said, he was sexually abused by Demmink, and he was later able to tell his story to the Amsterdam police force. However, when the investigation was suddenly dropped, he faced murder attempts, and he has been forced to hide his identity to this day in order to protect his safety.
Van der Plas voiced concern that a similar situation is now taking place with the Turkey allegations.
Klaas Langendoen, former Chief of Criminal Intelligence Services for the Netherlands, agreed.
He described how during the course of an investigation into wiretapping allegations, he came to believe that Turkish authorities had been blackmailing the Netherlands into framing a Kurdish activist after Demmink was caught sexually abusing minors at a 1995 party in Turkey.
Although he worked to help create an independent commission to uncover more facts, the Dutch Justice Department blocked the commission from travelling to Turkey and carrying out adequate research, he explained.
Langendoen said that he went on to conduct his own “extensive research,” which convinced him that “there is and has been abuse of minors” by high police and justice officials in the Netherlands, as well as efforts to block or cover up any attempts at criminal investigation or prosecution.
He said that he has come to realize that the Dutch government is unwilling to “carry out a fair independent investigation.”
The witnesses asked the U.S. State Department to remove the Tier 1 Status from the Netherlands.
They also urged the Helsinki Commission to pressure Turkish officials to release Demmink’s travel dates during the 1990s in order to move towards a thorough criminal investigation into his activities.
Witnesses at an Oct. 4 Helsinki Commission briefing called for increased pressure on the Dutch government to look into numerous sexual abuse accusations against a high ranking government official.
Human trafficking, Human rights