By Martin Plaut*
AMSTERDAM (IDN-INPS) – In 2015, Dutch professor and human rights advocate Mirjam van Reisen was interviewed by Dutch radio station ‘BNR Nieuwsradio‘ about people with ties to the Eritrean regime being employed as interpreters at the Dutch Immigration and Naturalisation Service (IND).
Van Reisen is professor at the Tilburg University and Leiden University.
In response to her remarks in this interview, the then chair of the Young People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (YPFDJ) in the Netherlands, a nationalist Eritrean Diaspora youth organisation connected to the Eritrean ruling party, the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ), started legal (interim injunction proceedings) against Van Reisen.
The court ruled in Van Reisen’s favour, upon which former YPFDJ chair Bahlbi appealed against the decision. The appeal court has now ruled that the judgment of the interim injunction proceedings had been correct in dismissing all claims against Van Reisen.
Unofficial translation of the appeal court’s ruling can be accessed at http://188.8.131.52/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Appeal-ruling_translation_December2017-final.pdf
The court case was about the following. Van Reisen commented in the interview with Dutch radio on two interpreters, the brother and sister, of the then-chair of the YPFDJ Netherlands, Bahlbi stating that “they are people who have been in the Netherlands for a long time, of whom the brother of the two concerned is the center of the Eritrean intelligence of which the heart is in the Netherlands, and that is known information and a fact.”
The Court investigated whether there was enough factual support for this statement and concluded: “The Court is of the opinion that the assertions of Van Reisen are supported to such an extent that the facts presented contain the necessary indications that the YPFDJ functions in part as a component in the intelligence network of the government of Eritrea (…)
“Bahlbi [has been] chair of the YPFDJ Netherlands for several years and still [was] at the time of the interview. As chair, he can be considered as the center of the YPFDJ in the Netherlands in any case, while furthermore, concrete indications exist that this organisation plays a role in the intelligence network of Eritrea.
“Bahlbi has therefore made himself vulnerable to accusations of involvement with the intelligence network, by becoming chair of the YPFDJ Netherlands and by his presence at yearly conferences and other meetings of the YPFDJ, whereby in addition it can be assumed that he was in touch with representatives of the government of Eritrea.”
The Court also takes into account that the statements of Van Reisen came as a response to an article on Oneworld.nl about the interpreters. The Court is of the opinion that in this article, an “important wrongdoing that affects society is covered” and because of this, Van Reisen has the right to “a large freedom to express herself about this in the interview in response to the article.”
Another complaint was issued with regard to a lack of right of defence (audi alteram partem). On this subject, the Court rules that Van Reisen “cannot be blamed for violating the principle of right of defence because it was BNR Nieuwsradio that chose to not let Bahlbi speak as well.”
Van Reisen was supported in the appeal by lawyers Christien Wildeman and Emiel Jurjens.
*This article first appeared on https://martinplaut.wordpress.com, the Website of Martin Plaut, Journalist specialising in the Horn of Africa and Southern Africa. [IDN-InDepthNews – 15 December 2017]
Related articles > Court Rules in Favour of Dutch Human Rights Advocate
Photo: Dutch appeal court has ruled in favour of Mirjam van Reisen, professor and human rights activist in a case filed by Bahibi, the center of the Eritrean intelligence in the Netherlands. Credit: Tilburg University.
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