Overview: The Netherlands continues to respond effectively to the global terrorist threat in border and transportation security, counterterrorist financing, CVE, and bilateral and multilateral CT cooperation. The national threat level remained “significant” (Level 3 of 5) throughout the reporting period. The main threat is Islamist terrorism, followed by REMVE, which the Dutch refer to as “violent right-wing extremism.” The Dutch assess the threat of REMVE violence as less acute in the Netherlands than in other European countries. The Netherlands has a comprehensive national CT strategy that implements policies to counter all forms of terrorism at the local level through multidisciplinary interagency cooperation.
The Netherlands is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, participates in Defeat-ISIS working groups, and is co-chair of its FTF Working Group with Turkey and Kuwait. The Netherlands has liaisons embedded at various operational command centers, deployed force protection units, and contributed military personnel and trainers in Iraq. The Dutch training mission was suspended temporarily in late March because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Netherlands is a member of the GCTF.
2020 Terrorist Incidents: Although authorities indicated there was “terrorist intent” related to some crimes, they did not identify any incidents with direct nexus to terrorist organizations.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Netherlands implemented CT legislation in line with relevant UNSCRs. There were no significant changes in law enforcement structures, capacity, international cooperation, or border security legislation in 2020. Draft legislation that would make it a punishable offense to reside in an area controlled by a terrorist organization without prior permission has been pending in the First Chamber of Parliament for the duration of the reporting period.
Significant law enforcement and judicial actions related to CT included the following:
- On March 20, Gokman Tanis was sentenced to life in prison for murder, attempted murder, and making threats with terrorist intent, for the 2019 attack on a train in Utrecht killing four people.
- On October 8, six individuals in the “Arnhem group,” who were arrested in 2018, received sentences ranging from 10 to 17 years on charges of preparing a multitarget terrorist attack in the Netherlands.
- On October 27, authorities arrested two Dutch citizens on charges including incitement, carrying a weapon, and participation in an organization that has the intention of committing terrorist crimes. Both individuals were active on REMVE social media channels.
- On November 16 the Amsterdam Court of Appeal sentenced Jawad Sultani, convicted of the 2018 terrorist stabbing of two American citizens, to 25 years in prison. The court overturned the conviction for threatening Dutch police officers but upheld the conviction for the stabbing with terrorist intent.
The government does not actively repatriate FTFs and their children from camps in Syria, but it escorted about five FTFs who reported to Dutch diplomatic missions in the region. All persons known to have traveled to the conflict areas in Syria and Iraq are under criminal investigation. The courts considered several cases involving female FTFs who wished to be repatriated, along with their children, from displaced persons camps in Syria to stand trial in the Netherlands. In each instance, the court upheld the 2019 decision that the government is not obligated to actively repatriate FTFs.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The Netherlands is a member of FATF and is one of the Cooperating and Supporting Nations of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, a FATF-style regional body. Its FIU, the Financial Intelligence Unit-Netherlands, is a member of the Egmont Group and contributes to EUROPOL’s financial intelligence team. The Netherlands is also a member of the Defeat ISIS CIFG. There have been no changes to the Netherlands’ membership in FATF and FATF-style regional bodies in 2020.
In 2020, Dutch courts convicted one individual for terrorist financing.
The Dutch framework for countering the financing of terrorism applies to all EU-designated terrorist organizations and the UN Security Council ISIL and al-Qa’ida Sanctions Committee. As of December the government’s national terrorist watchlists include 150 individuals and four organizations whose assets were frozen. A law ensuring alignment with EU antiterrorist financing laws was enacted October 7.
Countering Violent Extremism: The Netherlands’ 2016-20 National Counterterrorism Strategy contains measures to strengthen communities, build resilience to terrorist radicalization, and prevent persons from becoming FTFs. The strategy prioritizes prevention, among other themes. The government uses a local, multidisciplinary approach for prevention and develops tailored plans of action to intervene with individuals suspected of radicalization to violence.
Community police officers are the cornerstone of the local approach to prevention. Other stakeholders include local governments with the support of the Office of the National Coordinator for Security and Counterterrorism, the public prosecutor’s office, social workers, child protective services, educators, and community leaders. This approach prioritizes the use of preventive measures, including mentoring, counseling, and access to job-training programs and other social services. Similar programs also exist to rehabilitate former terrorists. To counter terrorist messaging, local governments use outreach efforts with community and religious leaders to amplify alternative narratives.
The Dutch cities of The Hague, Rotterdam, and Utrecht are members of the Strong Cities Network.
International and Regional Cooperation: The Netherlands participates in the United Nations, the GCTF, the EU, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, and NATO. The GCTF Administrative Unit is housed in The Hague. The country is on the governing board of the three GCTF-inspired institutions: the International Center of Excellence for Countering Violent Extremism (Hedayah), the International Institute for Justice and the Rule of Law, and GCERF. The Netherlands contributed to the EU’s Counter-Terrorism Agenda announced December 9. The Netherlands also participates in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.
The Netherlands continued to finance a wide variety of capacity building projects. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs supports regional security coordinators at six embassies that are dedicated to capacity building to identify terrorist radicalization. The Netherlands is an active participant in EUROPOL’s European Counter Terrorism Centre and the Counter Terrorism Group (the intelligence services of all EU member states plus Norway and Switzerland) to improve cooperation and information exchange between and among European CT services.