Gavin Mortimer

Will the EU condemn the Rotterdam police shootings?

Will the EU condemn the Rotterdam police shootings?
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Last month on Coffee House I drew attention to the inconsistency in how Europe responded to the migrant crises in Belarus and France. Alexander Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, was accused of ‘weaponising’ Middle Eastern migrants seeking to enter Europe at his country's border with Poland, but no government dared criticise France for the chaos in Calais.

There is similar hypocrisy in how the EU has reacted to Dutch police firing live bullets at protesters in Rotterdam. Last Friday three people venting their anger at the fresh Covid restrictions imposed by the Dutch government were wounded by what a police spokesperson referred to as ‘warning shots’. Shouldn’t warning shots have been fired over protesters’ heads and not into their bodies?

As disturbing as the reports were of the shooting, equally shocking has been the silence from the EU and the United Nations.

They haven’t always been so reticent when a police force takes aim at demonstrators. In August last year Belarus police in the south-western city of Brest opened fire at people protesting against the re-election of Lukashenko in a vote widely regarded as neither free nor fair.

The people of Belarus had taken to the streets in their thousands to express their dismay at the result in what the UN called a ‘largely peaceful’ protest. The police claimed they were provoked by a ‘group of aggressive citizens with metal rods in their hands’ and had opened fire in self-defence. It was reported that 200 demonstrators were wounded.

Condemnation of the Belarus police from the West was swift. Within days the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council, comprising the foreign ministers of the 27 member states, convened a meeting to discuss the incident and in a subsequent statement they urged the Belarusian authorities 'to stop the disproportionate and unacceptable violence'.

The UN also expressed its concern. In a statement Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet ‘reminded’ the Belarusian authorities that ‘the use of force during protests should always be exceptional and a measure of last resort.’

The Rotterdam police were subjected to what the city's mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb described as ‘an orgy of violence’ and consequently they 'felt it necessary to draw their weapons to defend themselves.’ In other words: self-defence, the same excuse the Belarusian police used in 2020.

While not condoning the mayhem caused by the protestors one can understand the rage of a great many Dutch. In September their Prime Minister Mark Rutte said in an address to the UN that the impact of lockdown on the young ‘has been enormous’ but that the vaccine was the escape route. The Dutch have one of the highest vaccine uptakes in Europe, with 74 per cent of the population double-jabbed, but they are now back in a partial lockdown.

Yet those who are protesting against the new restrictions have been labelled ‘idiots’ by Rutte, which is at least an improvement on the ‘scum’ description, used earlier this year by Holland's finance minister Wopke Hoekstra when talking about Covid dissidents.

While the UN said nothing about Dutch police firing on their own citizens, they did last week condemn Sudan for the ‘utterly shameful military authorities’ use of live ammunition into large crowds of unarmed protesters. Many Sudanese have been shot dead protesting against the country’s recent military coup – and of course what happened in Rotterdam is not comparable. But the failure to express any reservations about the trigger-happy Dutch police highlights the double standards of the West's liberal elite. It’s only tinpot tyrants who order their police to shoot at unarmed civilians; perish the thought it could be one of their own.

The EU is an odd organisation. It becomes apoplectic if one of its members fails to fall into line on LGBT ideology yet it is apathetic when one shoots its own citizens. One can’t help wondering what the reaction would have been in Brussels if it had been Hungarian police gunning down protesters.

Such hypocrisy not only undermines the moral authority of the EU and the UN but it legitimises lethal force and, one fears, it will embolden other countries to ‘Go Dutch’ if that’s what it takes to enforce the latest Covid restrictions.

Written byGavin Mortimer

Gavin Mortimer has lived in Paris for 12 years. His next book, The Phoney Major, a biography of SAS founder David Stirling, will be published by Constable next year.

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