In a development that could have wide-reaching ramifications for the relationship between the Dutch government and the International Criminal Court (ICC), an Amsterdam court recently ruled that three witnesses testifying at the ICC who applied for asylum in the Netherlands must be transferred to Dutch custody.
A Dutch district court had ruled in December that the witnesses could apply for asylum in the Netherlands. However, the witnesses have remained in ICC custody since then and the more recent decision requires the Dutch government to take custody of the witnesses.
The three unnamed witnesses had been transferred to the ICC’s detention centre in the Hague in May 2011 in order to testify in the ICC’s ongoing case against Congolese militia leader Germain Katanga. Prior to their transfer, the witnesses were awaiting trial in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Two of the witnesses had been detained in Congo in 2005 under an accusation of being involved in the murder of U.N. troops, while the third was detained in 2010 on suspicion of treason. According to the Dutch lawyer representing the witnesses in their asylum application, they feared for their safety if returned to Congo due to the fact that their testimonies incriminated the Congolese President Joseph Kabila in large-scale human rights violations.