Thursday, June 13, 2013

 

Former Dutch PMs facing possible charges for revealing nukes on Dutch soil

THE HAGUE, June 13 - Dutch public prosecutors on Thursday announced they are looking at possible charges for revealing state secrecy against two former prime ministers who said the Netherlands still stored tactical U.S. nuclear bombs on its soil.

Some 22 nuclear bombs are still stored at a southern air base where they were brought during the height of the Cold War, Ruud Lubbers, who headed the Dutch government between 1982 and 1994, told National Geographic in a documentary which was first broadcast on late Saturday.

Lubbers said the bombs were stored underground at the Volkel air base in the province of Brabant.

"If you go to Volkel now, we still have 'parts' that fulfill a nuclear function," Lubbers told the program, "I'm wondering why those crazy things are still there, because I think it's absolutely senseless."

His statement was confirmed on Wednesday by Dries van Agt, former Dutch Prime Minister from 1977 to 1982, in a radio show on Radio 1. "Oh well, these things (nuclear weapons) are of course there for a long time. It is absurd that they still are there," he said.

There has been widespread speculation about the presence of nuclear weapons or parts of them on Dutch soil for decades, but this speculation was never officially confirmed. The Netherlands saw mass demonstrations during the early 1980s against nuclear weapons including in October 1983 when some 550,000 people protested in The Hague against plans to deploy cruise missiles in the Netherlands.

Dutch prosecutors said on Wednesday that they would investigate the former prime ministers' statements, as they might have revealed a state secret which they are obliged to keep as former state officials under Article 272 of the Penal Code.

Paul Bovend'Eert, professor of constitutional law at Nijmegen University, thinks the Prosecutor could have a case.

"It's difficult, it depends (on if) Has Lubbers simply repeated what was already an open secret or did he speak of knowledge he had as a Prime-Minister. If the latter is the case, he violated his professional secrecy," he said.

However, an actual imprisonment is rather unlikely. "Under Article 272 of the Criminal Code the offense could lead to a maximum sentence of one year imprisonment," Bovend'Eert said. "But I don't think it will come that far."

The Dutch government has refused to comment. "I cannot say anything about locations, numbers or presence of nuclear weapons in the Netherlands, because of arrangements made within NATO," Dutch Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis told. "The statements of Mr. Lubbers are his own."

The former prime ministers' revealing was welcomed by some nevertheless.

"Very good that they let their conscience speak," said Krista van Velzen, a nuclear disarmament campaigner for Dutch civil society organization IKV Pax Christi has a sixty-year history in peace work and battled for the demolition of nuclear weapons for a long period. Krista van Velzen, IKV Pax Christi.

"In Germany for instance the presence of nuclear weapons is openly spoken about... To me it is a scandal that the prosecutor will now examine whether they have violated the law," she said. "This was no state secret, but an open secret. They should not be punished for that."

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