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The Netherlands

Overview:  The Netherlands continued 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, with jihadist-inspired individual attacks regarded as the most conceivable threat.  The government is also tracking an elevated REMVE threat through participation in international accelerationist networks and increased intermingling with anti-government demonstrations against coronavirus measures.  The Netherlands has a comprehensive national CT strategy and implements policies at the local level to counter all forms of terrorism through multidisciplinary interagency cooperation.

The Netherlands participates in Defeat-ISIS working groups and is co-chair of its FTF Working Group with Türkiye and Kuwait.  The country has embedded liaisons at various operational command centers, deployed force protection units, and contributed military personnel and trainers in Iraq.  The Netherlands is a member of the GCTF.

2021 Terrorist Incidents:  There were no reported incidents in 2021.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security:  There were no significant changes in law enforcement structures, capacity, international cooperation, or border security legislation in 2021.  On November 9, the government submitted a bill to the Dutch Parliament that would strengthen the legal basis for the National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security (NCTV) to process personal data for the purposes of protecting national security and combating terrorism.

Significant law enforcement and judicial actions related to CT included the following:

  • On February 17, there was a stabbing of a prison guard by a Sunni extremist inmate Gokmen Tanis, while serving a life sentence for a 2019 attack.
  • On April 6, a 43-year-old Syrian man was arrested at an asylum seekers’ center in Sint Annaparochie on suspicion of being involved in ISIS terrorist activities and other armed groups in Syria and Iraq.
  • On April 17, an 18-year-old man from Reuver was arrested on suspicion of preparing a terrorist attack.  He allegedly participated in a Telegram chat group where instructions were shared on how to make explosives and a bomb vest.
  • The Hague District Court in June sentenced a 33-year-old woman to six years imprisonment for her role as an administrator of an ISIS propaganda channel on Telegram.
  • On September 23, nine individuals from Eindhoven were arrested on suspicion of preparing a terrorist offense, participating in a terrorist organization, and taking part in or facilitating jihadist training.  The suspects allegedly discussed plans to attack Dutch politicians.

The government approved the June 5 repatriation of a suspected ISIS sympathizer and her two children, along with a 12-year-old whose mother had agreed to her repatriation on humanitarian grounds, in response to a local court ordering the defendant’s appearance at trial.

The NCTV assesses REMVE, or “right-wing extremism” as it is referred to in the Netherlands, as a threat to national security, particularly among young Dutch men who participate in international online accelerationist networks. REMVE actors in the Netherlands are loosely organized, lack central leadership, and are estimated at a few hundred individuals, mostly between the ages of 12 and 20.  While there were no arrests of right-wing extremists for terrorist offenses inspired by right-wing extremist ideology, the government noted that arrests were made for other offenses, such as hate speech, incitement to commit criminal offenses, making threats, and possession of firearms.

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.  The head of its FIU, the Financial Intelligence Unit-Netherlands, is the chair of the Egmont Group; the FIU contributes to Europol’s financial intelligence team.  There were no changes to the Netherlands’ membership in FATF and FATF-style regional bodies in 2021. The Dutch framework for countering terrorist financing 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 145 individuals and two organizations whose assets were frozen. The Netherlands is also a member of the Counter-ISIS Finance Working Group in the Defeat-ISIS Coalition.

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.  Prevention is a key aspect of this strategy.  The government uses a municipality-driven, multidisciplinary approach for prevention and develops tailored plans of action to intervene with individuals suspected of radicalization to violence.  Similar programs also exist to rehabilitate former terrorists.

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.  The Ministry of Social Affairs and the Ministry of Education also play leading roles in countering foreign influence and funding for religious schools, NGOs, and other educational institutions.  To counter terrorist messaging, local governments use outreach efforts with community and religious leaders to amplify alternative narratives.  The Hague, Rotterdam, and Utrecht are members of the Strong Cities Network.  The Netherlands is a contributor to GCERF and the Strong Cities Network.

International and Regional Cooperation:  The Netherlands participates in the GCTF and is host to its Administrative Unit.  The country is also 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 is an active participant in Europol’s European Counter Terrorism Centre and the Counterterrorism Group to improve cooperation and information exchange between and among European CT services.  The nation continued to finance a wide variety of capacity building projects.  Its Ministry of Foreign Affairs supports regional security coordinators at six embassies that are dedicated to capacity building to identify terrorist radicalization. The Netherlands is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS and co-leads the Foreign Terrorist Fighters’ Working Group, which shares best practices and identifies key issues regarding FTFs in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Africa. In addition to this leadership, the Netherlands is a member of the Counter-ISIS Finance, Stabilization, and Communications Working Groups.

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