Reaction UAI on the setting up of independent investigation into intercountry adoptions in the past

Letter sent by United Adoptees International on 29 April 2019

Ministry of Justice
Minister S. Dekker

Translated from Dutch

Dear Minister Dekker,

As a result of your writing and announcement of the composition of the committee of inquiry and the research assignment, the following.

With some surprise, we have taken note of the details of the announced institutional decision concerning the independent investigation of intercountry adoption in the past. The Ministry of Justice and Security has indicated that it is aware of the critical view of adoptees as signals of abuse have been known for so long, and there has been lack of a listening ear from the Ministry of Justice and Security for years. The guarantee of independence is both promised by Minister S. Dekker during the general consultation of January 24, 2019, and during the round table consultation with the interest groups on February 19, 2019. Now the composition of the committee has been announced, we have unfortunately found after research that two out of three committee member have a rich past with the Ministry of Justice and Security, among others. Since involvement from the Ministry of Justice and Security, that is precisely that needs to be investigated, this raises the question whether the purity and independence can be sufficiently guaranteed, with a satisfactory and pure outcome.

The chairman, Mr. T.H.J. Joustra has been intimately involved with the Ministry of Justice and Security since April 2004. Initially from his position as National Coordinator for Counterterrorism and Security
(NCTV), this body falls directly under the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice and Security. Mr. Joustra was then directly chaired by the Ministry of Justice and Security in 2011 of the Dutch Safety Board (OVV), this body also falls instantly under the responsibility of the Ministry of Justice and Security. An appointment that because of the proceeding regarding independence, is being met with controversy. Also, Mr. Joustra maintains a very close friendship with the former Secretary General of the Ministry since the 1980s of Justice and Security, Mr. J. Demmink, given his position within the Ministry of Justice Justice and Security, one of the responsible persons to be investigated directly by the committee of inquiry.

Mr. G.J.H. Houtzagers stepped down from his position as of 1 September 2018, after approximately 20 years of service as a national lawyer. Mr. Houtzagers worked all these years under the direct responsibility of the Ministry of Justice and Security. Mr. Houtzagers worked as a country lawyer through Pels Rijcken & Droogleever Fortuijn. We know that in addition to possible structural cooperation, in any case during the year 2018, the Wereldkinderen’s Foundation license holder through this office a legal has undergone restructuring of their organization. It is also remarkable that if the committee of inquiry finds criminal offenses with civil servants during the investigation and reports this to the public prosecutor, Pels Rijcken & Droogleever Fortuijn must defend these officials.
This research covers a period of decades. During this period, Mr. Joustra and Mr. Houtzagers were affiliated with the Ministry of Justice and Security. For clarification, here several conflicting facts to be investigated, where the Dutch government can be read as the Ministry of Justice and Security.

• Familiarity with the Dutch government with the aforementioned potential abuses
• The involvement of the Dutch government in the aforementioned potential abuses,
• Familiarity with Dutch intermediaries or other bodies/individuals with the aforementioned potential abuses, the involvement of Dutch intermediary parties or other authorities/individuals in the event of the aforementioned potential abuses,
• The extent to which possible involvement of the Dutch government and Dutch intermediary parties or other bodies/individuals was incidental or structural in nature,
• The manner in which the Dutch government is aware of the aforementioned potential abuses responded

Given the social responsibility wherein the independence of the committee of inquiry must be guaranteed, it is in our opinion clear that there is a conflict of interest when it comes to at least two members of the commission, including the chair.

Reaction to the decision of the Minister for Legal Protection of 18 April 2019, no. 2569840, containing the establishment of the Investigation Committee on Intercountry Adoption in the past (Decision of Institution Commission Investigation of Intercountry Adoption in the past)

Article 2.3 Institution and Task
A round table meeting with different interest groups was held on 19 February 2019 with several interest groups representing international adoptees. A number of the issues raised during this meeting, are without obligation to investigate given to the committee, the suggestion that is given that the interest groups are being listened to, is very suggestive. All the points that have been introduced by the interest groups are non-binding and can, therefore, be set aside by the committee.

Article 5 Members
See the elaboration mentioned above concerning the committee members.

Article 9 Reimbursement
It is stated that the chairman will perform his duties based on 1.5 working days per week. The other two committee members one day a week. Taking into account that none of these three committee members have any expertise or experience in the highly complex field of adoption. Based on this factually available time, we do not see how there can be an in-depth investigation with the possibility of eventual extension of this investigation. We are also surprised that committee members with such limited hours have been recruited. The minister has repeatedly stated that extension to more countries, outside the five countries mentioned, is not desirable. This because of the extent. With this argumentation, a definitive extension to the period after 1989 is also blocked.
Due to the limited available hours, it is almost impossible to expand further, resulting in that the research will be too limited to complete the task correctly.

Article 13 Publication
Article 14 Archive documents
We believe that openness and transparency have been missing in this discussion for decades, therefore we find the points in which that include that reports, notes, reports, opinions, and other products manufactured or collected by or on behalf of the committee are not being made public by the committee, but only issued or transferred to the Minister, unacceptable. In our opinion, one should finally constructively look into this subject, in which this protection structure does not contribute to confidence.

External advisory committee

We are talking about an external, supervisory committee, which is not reflected in the decision from the Minister. It is essential that this external supervisory committee is established as soon as possible. Given the promises made during the round table meeting on 19 February 2019, we assume that before this external supervisory committee is set up, a consultation will take place. Among others, the undersigned organization. It is of great importance given the above-detailed facts and the working method from the Ministry of Justice and Security up until this date will be part of the procedure when it comes to the current composition. Several interest groups have early in this compilation process recommended Mrs. R. Post as the chairman of the committee of inquiry. Now, it appears that the Minister did not honor this request from the interest groups. Knowledge of the adoption field is exceptionally essential. We herewith request that you, from various interest groups of adopted persons, let Mrs. R. Post occupy the leading position within the external committee. This way, there is sufficient expertise, experience, and quality guaranteed.

In addition to the above, we would like to draw your attention to the fact that there has been research for a more extended period, which was done by the interest organizations in the field with more than 30 years of knowledge and experience. At the meeting of 19 February 2019, it was therefore urgently requested not to lose this knowledge, but to include these established organizations and to deploy them in this research. The interest groups have gained the knowledge partly due to the fact that for many years, abuses have been denied by the Ministry of Justice and Security. We, therefore, assume that in addition to consultation with regard to the investigation of the external supervisory commission, the interest groups will be a part of this process.

The interest groups have indicated on several occasions that there are concerns about the independence of the committee of inquiry. The content mentioned above of the decision of 18 April 2019 and the stated conflicts of interest of the members of the committee raises the question if the purity and independence of this investigation are sufficiently guaranteed, and thus if the outcome can be achieved satisfactorily and purely.

We hereby appeal to the House of Representatives to instruct the Minister to reconsider and undo the decision of the institution on April 18, 2019.

We await your answer.

Yours sincerely,

Chamila Seppenwoolde