Today, on behalf of several clients, lawyers Liesbeth Zegveld and Michiel Pestman filed a criminal complaint against the Minister of Social Affairs & Employment, Lodewijk Asscher, for committing an offense as public servant (Article 355 of the Dutch Penal Code).
The criminal offense concerns the payment of benefits (pensions) pursuant to the General Old Age Pensions Act (in Dutch: Algemene Ouderdomswet; AOW) to persons living in the occupied Palestinian Territory. Pursuant to Article 8a AOW, that is only permitted if the Netherlands has an enforcement treaty with the territory in question. Though the Netherlands has such an agreement with the State of Israel, that treaty does not apply in the occupied Palestinian Territory because the Netherlands does not acknowledge Israel’s sovereignty there. Minister Asscher was previously informed about these circumstances, but nonetheless instructed the Social Insurance Bank (in Dutch: Sociale Verzekeringsbank) to continue paying full AOW-benefits to the people involved. As there is no legal basis for this, Minister Asscher is thereby committing a criminal offense as a civil servant. His actions also violate Article 1 of the Dutch Constitution, because people living in other territories in the world with which the Netherlands has no enforcement treaty are not paid full benefits in accordance with the AOW.
It is possible for a Minister to be prosecuted in the Netherlands for offenses committed as a public servant if the Procurator General with the Supreme Court is ordered to do so by Royal Decree; the procedure for this is laid down in the Ministerial Responsibility Act. The lawyers have asked the Second Chamber of Parliament to initiate that procedure.
- L. van Nierop, 'Asscher door advocaten beticht van ambtsmisdrijf', NRC Handelsblad | 29 September 2016