NEW YORK – In the 1980s and early 1990s, a large number of Afghans fled to the Netherlands to escape the dire situation in their own country. But they weren’t the only ones who left.
Senior government officials, including agents of the secret service – the dreaded KhAD – who had engaged in human rights violations also landed on Dutch soil.
Imagine escaping torture in your home country for exile far away, then suddenly crossing paths with the person responsible for your suffering. Dutch media reported in 1997 that at least 35 Afghan war criminals had sought asylum in the country and were walking around freely – at times coming face-to-face with their victims.
The article caused a public outcry and led the Dutch government to create a special unit within its immigration service to identify people responsible for serious international crimes.
The “1F Unit,” a reference to article 1F of the UN Refugee Convention, had a clear mandate: keep the Netherlands from becoming a safe haven for war criminals.