The Dutch government has supported an armed group in Syria, who by the Dutch Public Prosecution Service has been classified as a terrorist organisation. According to research presented today by Dutch newspaper Trouw and television program Nieuwsuur.
In October a trial will start against a Dutch citizen that joined Jabhat al-Shamiya and actively participated in actions this group carried out in Syria. This group has previously been classified as a terrorist organisation by the Dutch government.
Trouw and Nieuwsuur, in the past months, have interviewed hundreds of rebels and others involved in the NLA (Non Lethal Assistance) program, a secret government program. Using this program, the Dutch government (from 2015 till early 2018) delivered ‘non-lethal goods’ to 22 rebel groups in Syria. Even though Dutch parliament members have repeatedly requested more information on the NLA program, the Dutch government has thus far not released the names of the rebel groups it has been supporting.
Rebel leaders and others involved have confirmed that the Dutch government in 2017 provided Jabhat al-Shamiya (‘Levant Front’) uniforms and pick-up trucks. Jabhat al-Shamiya has been classified as a salafist and jihadist organisation by the same government that supported them. In a law suit last year, the public prosecutor’s office stated that this organisation was striving for the creation of a caliphate and can’t be classified any other than a ‘criminal organisation with terrorist aims’. Trouw and Nieuwsuur have identified at least 6 specific brigades in this organisation that have received support from the Dutch government.
The program costs several millions
The Dutch government told the parliament in 2015 that it would only support moderate groups in Syria. And that the ‘moderately armed groups’ would be judged by strict criteria before they would receive support. For example, the Dutch government would check if said groups would be following the ‘humane rules of war’. On top of that, these groups ‘would be continuously monitored’. The Dutch government, at the time, has said that supporting ‘moderate’ groups is necessary because it would allow these groups to have more power at the future negotiation table with the Syrian government. The rebels are primarily fighting Assad, initially ISIS too, but some rebel groups have merged with ISIS too.
Trouw and Nieuwsuur’s research has shown that besides uniforms and pick-up trucks, such as the Toyota Hilux and Isuzu D-max, the Dutch government has also provided rebel groups with satellite phones, laptops, mattresses, backpacks and cameras. The rebels told Trouw and Nieuwsuur that they are “very happy with the Dutch support and that they’re actively using the goods in their battles”. Videos have shown that these rebel groups were indeed using the pick-up trucks said to have been provided by the Dutch government and were seen mounting machine guns on top to target military targets. In these videos it was impossible to see where the vehicles came from, because these vehicles have been stripped of number plates or any other form of identification.
Public information on the NLA program is difficult to obtain, requests by Nieuwsuur and Trouw, using the Act on public access to government information, have been repeatedly denied. In a response to the articles released today, the Dutch Gov’t has promised that they stopped the program: “From our own monitoring we concluded that the risks were simply too great and due to the politically changed situation in Syria, we don’t think it was necessary anymore to continue our support. Reports from Nieuwsuur and Trouw have proven that our own assessment was correct and that we did the right thing to discontinue support”.
The program, supporting terrorist rebels in Syria, costed the Dutch tax payer 25 million Euros.
This article will be expanded upon when more information is released.