World News

Iraq invasion had no legal backing: Dutch report

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - The Dutch government supported an invasion of Iraq that had no legal backing and did not fully inform parliament about its plans in the run-up to the conflict, a long-awaited investigation concluded on Tuesday.

The committee’s scathing report, whose release was broadcast live on state television, also said that Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende had little to do with initial planning for the Netherlands’ participation in the war.

“The United Nations Security Council resolution on Iraq from the 1990s did not give a mandate to the US-British military intervention in 2003,” the Dutch Committee of Inquiry on Iraq said in its 550-page report.

The Netherlands gave political support to the war because of a risk that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, and to support its NATO allies the United States and Britain, who led the invasion, the committee said. It emerged later that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction.

The U.S.-led invasion probably also targeted “regime change” in Iraq but military intervention for this reason was not supported by international law and the Dutch government was aware of this, the committee said.

The report said the Dutch government did not adequately inform parliament in 2002 and 2003 about a U.S. request that it support planning for the invasion, and about the timing of Dutch logistical support for the invasion.

“It could have been much more complete. Information from intelligence and security services was handed out selectively,” committee chairman Willibrord Davids told reporters.

Keeping information from parliament is considered “a political sin” in the Netherlands and is a reason for MPs to call for a minister’s resignation.

Several party leaders immediately called for the government to answer questions in parliament.


Balkenende, prime minister now and in 2003, opposed an investigation for years but ordered one last February after the media questioned the legality of the Netherlands’ support for the U.S.-led invasion.

He was handed the report on Tuesday and said he would study it before giving a reaction.

Balkenende did not attend the brief foreign affairs ministry meeting in August 2002 at which the decision was effectively taken to support the Iraq invasion, and was not actively involved in planning until February 2003, the committee said.

“This meeting, which only took a short time -- one of our interlocutors said it was not more than 45 minutes -- laid the basis for the cabinet’s position which was maintained until the invasion in March 2003,” Davids said.

“The Prime Minister ... left the matter of Iraq entirely to the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Only after January 2003 did the Prime Minister take a strong interest in this,” the report said.

Some top civil servants at the ministry had expressed doubts as to whether the invasion was backed by international law but these were made subordinate to other considerations, Davids said.

The Dutch cabinet resigned in 2002 over an official report which condemned the government’s failure to prevent the Srebrenica massacre in 1995, the worst atrocity of the Bosnian war in which up to 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed.