Top Dutch officials speak out on situation of the seven

May 21, 2013

In the Netherlands, a number of prominent people – including government officials and parliamentarians – expressed their concern over ongoing human rights violations in Iran last week, also calling for more attention to the situation of the seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders.

They spoke out in several venues, including one organized by the Baha’i community of the Netherlands as part of the Five Years Too Many campaign.

At an interactive debate at famous the Prison Gate Museum in The Hague on Tuesday, 14 May, Gilles Plug, the director of the North Africa and Middle Eastern department at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, explained what the Netherlands is doing to promote human rights in Iran.


Mr. Gilles Plug, director North Africa and Middle East for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, left, at the Five Years Too Many event in the Prison Gate Museum in The Hague on 14 May.

“Foreign Affairs is a body which, certainly, adopts the appeal of [the Five Years Too Many campaign], not just for the Baha’is themselves, but for all vulnerable groups in society everywhere in the world, from the conviction not alone for these groups themselves but for the constitutional state,” said Mr. Plug.

In a video message delivered at the debate, Nico Schrijver, a member of the Senate of the Netherlands and vice-chairperson of the Geneva-based UN Committee for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, said that the arrest and imprisonment of the seven violated international law.

“The leaders of the Baha’i community have been detained for the sole reason that they are Baha’is,” said Dr. Schrijver. “This is of course a complete violation of human rights law. One of the fundamental human rights includes the right of religious freedom and to practice your own religion.”

The entire video can be viewed here.

On 15 May, there was a debate in the Parliament on freedom of religion or belief. The situation of the Baha’is was mentioned by NMP Harry van Bommel, who asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs if he was willing to ask Iran for the immediate release of the seven Baha’i leaders. Mr. Van Bommel also issued that call in his blog.

Frans Timmermans, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, responded by saying he would make such a request of the Iranian ambassador.

Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp, former president of the European region of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and a founding member of Green Cross International, also issued a statement about the situation of the seven Baha’i leaders.

“To my brothers and sisters from the blessed tradition of Bahai. On this day of the Jewish festival of Shavuot, when we celebrate the revelation of the Torah, my prayers of the heart are with you, my beloved friends, for your freedom and safety.

“Our various traditions transmit the same message about the unity of humanity. The human family resembles one body. When one part of the body aches the other parts feel the pain. Thus we can only be healed when you have been restored to full health,” wrote Rabbi Soetendorp on 14 May.

Elements of the Five Years Too Many campaign in the Netherlands also received coverage in the news media. Shahrzad News filmed the event at the Prison Gate Museum, interviewing the main speakers, who included Bernadette Ficq, an asylum attorney with Lawyers for Lawyers, and Shirin Milani, a criminal court judge in the Province of Overijssel. And the main national newspaper, Volkskrant, published an article about the campaign, which can be viewed as a PDF by clicking here.

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