Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Balkan Spies In The Hague

Tribunal Update 135: Last Week in The Hague (19-25 July, 1999)
By IWPR

This, by definition, is the task of secret services of the countries that are under the Tribunal's jurisdiction. And the task of the secret service of the Netherlands - as host country to the Tribunal - is to as far as possible prevent their Balkan colleagues from doing their job.


An annual report by the Dutch Internal Security Service (BVD), published last week, says that "various intelligence services from the Balkans targeted operations of the ICTY". As a result the BVD and the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, had "pointed out to the representatives of the countries concerned that they should refrain from intelligence activities".


Unlike last year's BVD report, which explicitly singles out the Croatian secret service and the Bosnian AID as "most active" in this field, this year's report did not point a finger at any one in particular.


When asked by the Tribunal Update "whether it is safe to assume that, more or less, the services of all countries that are under the Tribunal's jurisdiction are concerned," the press representative of the Dutch secret service, Vincent van Steen, answered affirmatively.


All that van Steen was prepared to add to what was published, was that Balkan spies are attempting in various ways to obtain confidential information from the people working in The Tribunal or in official contact with it.


They are also apparently trying to trace the witnesses in order to intimidate or influence them. Van Steen added that the Dutch service learns about such incidents from the Tribunal and from their own sources - and resolves the problem itself or in cooperation with the police.


The increased number of arrests of suspects in Bosnia by the SFOR force, the report says, represent a significant security risk for Holland, so that its secret service is taking preventive measures.


The problem is, the report says, that "the arrests were often not planned in advance or were prepared in secret" so that the Dutch authorities "often had to take security measures at very short notice."


Special concern, the report says, is expressed over "the risk of attack (on the UN prison) and attempts at freeing the accused." Van Steen says there have been no such attempts so far, but predicts that the security risk will increase when some of the political, military and paramilitary leaders named by the Tribunal's indictments arrive at The Hague. Then their supporters might plot attacks or try to help the prisoners' escape.


"We are taking such risk very seriously", van Steen says. He adds that some persons named in Hague indictments, "have a significant experience in organising prison escapes."


The Tribunal refused to comment directly on the allegations of the Dutch Secret Service about the activity of Balkan spies. Its spokesman, Jim Landale, said only that the Tribunal is taking "a number of different security measures for a number of different reasons."