How the Netherlands extradited a (NATO) Public Prosecutor and his son to the Taliban
Do you know the movie The Killing Fields (1984)? The true story of journalist Sidney Schanberg (New York Times) who saw his Cambodian colleague Dith Pran disappear in Khmer Rouge-occupied Cambodia? And how he fought for years to save Dith Pran from the hands of the Khmer Rouge? We never thought we would end up in more or less the same situation in 2023.
On August 15, 2021, Kabul fell to the Taliban. Many, mainly interpreters, were repatriated on the basis of the Belhaj motion in the Dutch Parliament. At the same time, NATO called on the Netherlands to rescue a small NATO team, the so-called Extended Hand Team. This team consisted of a number of lawyers, judges, public prosecutors and academics from the International Comparative Law group who were in immanent danger. The Extended Hand team has worked intensively for years with Dutch officers, diplomats, NGOs and the Royal Military Academy (KMA). They were committed to women’s and LGBTQ rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Thanks to Defense employees of the so-called Kabul Team-4 of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the NATO team was repatriated to the Netherlands, Belgium and the United Kingdom, where many have now taken up their profession as professor or lawyer.
Rafi Pir, a young public prosecutor, stayed behind in Kabul*. He could not find the passports of his wife and son in time. In the chaos of Kabul’s fall, it was impossible to reach the airport in time. He has been in hiding ever since. His father – who was repatriated by the Netherlands – was a leading general in the Afghan National Army. He fought intensively together with Dutch soldiers against the Taliban. The general recently received a message from the Taliban that, in short, boiled down to this: ‘if we find your son, you have 4 weeks to report to Afghanistan for your trial’. You roughly know what that means.
Meanwhile, the wife of the young public prosecutor has passed away. Under unpleasant circumstances, you should know. After all, a hospital visit meant exposure of her husband and son with all its consequences.
Thanks to American soldiers, there has been a window of opportunity over the past three weeks to repatriate the young public prosecutor and his son from Kabul to Pakistan and deliver them to the Dutch embassy in Islamabad. But the Defense employees are no longer part of Kabul Team-4 due to an internal conflict with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Affairs categorically refuses any cooperation. That is remarkable because Rafi Pir meets all legal criteria. He was on the August 2021 State Department approved list as a public prosecutor, member of the NATO Extended Hand Team and was in immanent danger. Moreover, there is no question of ‘voluntarily’ staying behind in Kabul. Moreover, it is impossible for the Netherlands to explain that a fled general is forced by the Taliban to return to Afghanistan to sacrifice his life for that of his son.
The Killing Fields ended well in a way. Dith Pran survived the Khmer Rouge regime. The question is whether this also applies to Rafi Pir and his son. In any case, Team Kabul-4 of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not care. Let’s save Rafi Pir and his son!
Harry Veenendaal | Chairman Mandeville Academy
*fictitious name for security reasons.