Ministerie van Buitenlandse Zaken

Dutch Diplo Talk

Presumed Genocide Makes Action Possible

18 Aug 2014

The world is full of violent conflicts. These conflicts are not only settled on the battle grounds. Local populations suffer the most. Their houses and lives are destroyed; ethnic cleansing pushes them to refugee camps. Local leaders or their representatives abroad reach out to the international community to come to aid. Even I – a diplomat working on the west coast of the United States – am approached.

As a first step I’m asked to explain what’s happening in the Netherlands. In March it was a Dutch national politician who asked “Do you want more or less Moroccans in our country?” and his followers in a beer hall shouted “Fe-wer, fe-wer!”. I explained the response of the Dutch government in my blog 34.

Last week the mayor of The Hague was criticized for not preventing a demonstration in which some carried a sign depicting the Nazi-flag and the Israel-flag aligned. The mayor met with representatives from the Dutch Center for Information and Documentation of Israel (CIDI) and the Dutch Central Jewish Dialogue (CJO, containing Portuguese, progressive, Zionist, societal and youth organizations) to discuss their concerns.  At the end of the meeting, the representatives declared to be satisfied with meeting the mayor.

Displaced people from the minority Yazides, fleeing violence from forces loyal to the Islamic State in Sinjar town, walk towards the Syrian border
To know the Netherlands is to understand the importance of the rule of law in Dutch society. Understanding this basic principle, everyone has a guarantee to be treated on the basis of his own actions, as an individual and never as a member of a group. The freedoms that we all enjoy are inalienable. It is the government’s role to take a stand on this. We must never become accustomed to scenes like mentioned above. Politicians have a duty to raise and resolve problems, not to poison society by setting people against one another.

As a second step I’m asked to give my opinion on violent conflicts, especially in the Middle East and in Ukraine. In these cases my answer is the rule of law as well. Because international rules of law are still weak and international organizations lack power to implement them, especially the Netherlands seeks to strengthen them. It is not a coincidence that The Hague is seen as the legal capital of the world, hosting the International Court of Justice, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the International Criminal Court, Eurojust, Europol and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

In violent conflicts people are afraid and emotional. When approached, I try to make them see that accepting their “facts” or “expectations” is not bringing us closer to the rule of law. People who claim to be a victim of racism, or who claim an act of genocide is taking place, have to walk the path of justice. I agree with those who say sometimes there is no time to wait for the outcome of that path. In the case of the Yazidis, the Dutch parliament this week agreed with the presumption the Minister of Foreign Affairs made that ISIS is committing a crime against humanity. Now any type of international rescue and intervention is possible.

For more information regarding Dutch relief to the Northern Iraq area, read here.

This blog was posted earlier in Hugo’s Weekly.

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About the author

Hugo Von Meijenfeldt
Written by Hugo Von Meijenfeldt

Consul-General in San Francisco

Hugo von Meijenfeldt was appointed as representative for the Kingdom of the Netherlands in the 13 westernmost United States in August 2013.

Prior to his current position, Hugo was Deputy Director General at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. He also served as Special Envoy for Climate Change at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from 2009 until 2013. In this capacity, he led Dutch participation in global diplomatic activities to reach a climate agreement.

Previously, Hugo was Director for Soil, Water and Rural Environment. For several years he held the position of Deputy Director for International Affairs, Chairman of the Committee on Environmental Policy of UN-ECE Geneva, and Head of the European Policy Division (including the EU Presidency in 1997). From 1982 until 1991, he was Legal Counsel to the soil clean-up division.

Hugo earned his Masters in Public Law and Policy at the Free University in Amsterdam in 1981. He is member of the WorldConnectors and the Sustainability Challenge Foundation.