Country Report on Terrorism 2018 - Chapter 1 - The Netherlands

Overview: The Netherlands continued to respond effectively to the global terrorist threat in the areas of border and transportation security, counterterrorist financing, CVE, and bilateral and multilateral counterterrorism cooperation. Since March 2013, the Dutch national threat level has been “substantial” (the second-highest ranking). The main threat is Islamist terrorism, with risks posed by both networks and lone actors. The Netherlands has a comprehensive national counterterrorism strategy in which policies are implemented at the local level through multidisciplinary interagency cooperation.

The Netherlands is a member of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, participates in all Coalition working groups, and is co-chair, with Turkey and Kuwait, of the Coalition’s FTF Working Group. The Netherlands has liaisons embedded at various operational command center, conducted air strikes against terrorist targets in Iraq and Syria, provided force protection, and contributed military personnel and trainers in Iraq. The Netherlands is also a member of the GCTF and co-chairs the GCTF with Morocco.

2018 Terrorist Incidents: On August 31, an Afghan asylum seeker living in Germany stabbed two U.S. citizens at Amsterdam Central Station. Authorities believe the perpetrator did not specifically target the U.S. citizens. Both victims survived the attack. The suspect acted alone and had terrorist intent. The first hearing for the suspect took place on December 11, and he remained in Dutch custody at year’s end.

On May 5, a Syrian asylum seeker stabbed three people in The Hague. All three survived the attack. Dutch law enforcement considers it very likely that the suspect acted with terrorist intent. The suspect has a history as a psychiatric patient. The suspect remained in Dutch custody at year’s end.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: The Netherlands implemented counterterrorism legislation in line with relevant UNSCRs. Within the EU, the Netherlands continued to push for implementation of the EU’s “Road Map to Improve Information Exchange,” first proposed by the Netherlands during its EU Presidency in 2016. There were no significant changes in law enforcement structures, capacity, international cooperation, or border security legislation in 2018. On May 1, a new Law on the Intelligence Services entered into force. This law governs the authorities and mandates of the Dutch intelligence services. Updates from the previous version of the law include changes to the mandate to intercept online data.

On October 16, various new counterterrorism measures entered into force. The measures include extending the period authorities can hold a terrorist suspect in pre-trial detention, making it easier to draw DNA material from terrorist suspects, making it mandatory for citizens to report terrorist crimes to authorities, and withdrawing voting rights from convicted terrorists.

In support of UNSCR 2396, the Netherlands developed Travel Information Portal (TRIP) software to enable passenger screening, and signed over the intellectual property rights to the UN so that other countries can use it.

Significant law enforcement and judicial actions related to counterterrorism included:

  • Following the August 31 attack at Amsterdam Central Station, Dutch authorities cooperated with U.S. agencies. The local government in Amsterdam is developing ways to improve cooperation with embassies from relevant countries during an emergency, including quicker and more complete information sharing.
  • During a large, coordinated operation on September 27, authorities arrested seven suspects on suspicion of planning a major terrorist attack in the Netherlands. The group was in the process of acquiring AK-47s, small arms, hand grenades, bomb vests, and precursors for building explosive devices. Upon their arrest, four suspects were allegedly training to attack a major event. At year’s end, one suspect had been released pending the conclusion of the investigation; the others remained in custody.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: The Netherlands is a member of the FATF and is one of the Cooperating and Supporting Nations of the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, a FATF-style regional body. The Netherlands’ FIU is a member of the Egmont Group and has the rotating chair for 2017-19. The government effectively enforced terrorist finance laws. At least five persons were arrested in 2018 for financing FTFs in Syria. Their cases remained pending at year’s end.

The Dutch framework for countering the financing of terrorism applies to all EU-designated terrorist organizations and the UN Security Council ISIL (Da’esh) and al-Qa’ida sanctions regime. As of December 2018, the government’s national terrorist watch lists include 135 individuals and three organizations whose assets were frozen.

For additional information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes.

Countering Violent Extremism: The Netherlands’ 2016-2020 National Counterterrorism Strategy contains measures to strengthen communities, build resilience to terrorist radicalization, and prevent persons from becoming FTFs. The government prioritizes prevention, among other themes, within its strategy. The government uses a local, multi-disciplinary approach for prevention and develops tailored plans of action to intervene with individuals suspected of radicalization.

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 rehabilitate former terrorists. To counter terrorist messaging, local governments use outreach efforts with community and religious leaders to amplify credible voices. Returned FTFs undergo a threat assessment by the government; some returnees are prosecuted.

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 UN, GCTF, the EU, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, and NATO. As co-chair of the GCTF, the Netherlands hosts and has seconded staff to the GCTF Administrative Unit. In 2018, the Netherlands led a GCTF initiative on the nexus between terrorism and organized crime, and with the United States an initiative on returning FTFs and their families. The Netherlands 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 (IIJ), and GCERF. 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 appointed regional security coordinators at six embassies who are dedicated to capacity building to identify terrorist radicalization. The Netherlands is an active participant in the Counter Terrorism Group (the intelligence services of all EU member states plus Norway and Switzerland) to improve cooperation and information exchange between European counterterrorism services.