Dutch summon YU diplomat over detainees

THE HAGUE, Aug 3, 2000 -- (Reuters) The Dutch government summoned Yugoslavia's top diplomat in the Netherlands on Wednesday to protest at being denied access to four of its nationals charged with plotting to kidnap or kill President Slobodan Milosevic.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Bart Jochems said Yugoslavia's Charge d'Affaires Vladimir Novakovic had been called in to meet the ministry's senior official in charge of European affairs.

"We're not discussing what they did or did not do," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Bart Jochems.

"The only thing we want is to see these guys and to see if they are doing all right. We want to hear their side of the story," he told Reuters.

The arrest of the four Dutchmen was announced two days ago, but Dutch government sources suspect that they may have been detained for as long as two weeks.


The decision to summon the Charge d'Affaires to the Foreign Ministry was taken after Dutch authorities in Yugoslavia failed to secure access to the four or learn of their whereabouts.

A diplomatic source in Yugoslavia said on Wednesday there had been no response from the Yugoslav Foreign Ministry to a request by the Dutch embassy in Belgrade to meet the detainees. They were shown in a video film at a news conference on Monday.

One of the men said in the film he and his friends had been looking for people indicted by a UN war crimes tribunal and that if they had come across Milosevic, the most prominent person indicted, they would have tried either to kidnap him or cut off his head.

The four, motor mechanic Godfried de Rie, bank employee Bas van Schaik, Sander Zeitsen and Jeroen van Iersel were thought by family members to be on holiday in the Balkans. All are aged between 28 and 32.

De Rie's colleagues, interviewed on Dutch NOS television said he looked and sounded as if he had been mistreated.

Yugoslav Information Minister Goran Matic said the group had been arrested in Mehov Krs, an isolated corner of Serbia about 450 km (300 miles) south of Belgrade just before the G8 summit of leading nations in Okinawa, Japan.

The summit started on July 21.


In the Yugoslav capital, the diplomatic source said a representative of the Dutch embassy in Belgrade had referred to the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations at a meeting with a Yugoslav Foreign Ministry official on Tuesday.

Under the convention, the embassy of a detained person's country should be informed if he or she requests it.

"It was very a short meeting and the only thing the Yugoslav official said was that he would consult with higher levels like federal ministers of foreign affairs and internal affairs and they would be informed of the result," the second source said.

"There has been no word," the source said on Wednesday.

One of the Dutch detainees, speaking in English, said they were amateur "weekend warriors" who had regular jobs during the week and had been looking for action in a "warfare country".

The United States has offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to the arrest of Milosevic or others indicted as war criminals.

Matic said the Dutch men were not merely bounty-hunters, but had been sent by Western intelligence agencies wanting to make a present of a "Serbian head" to the U.S. delegation at Okinawa.

He offered no information to support the charge, which Western diplomats in Belgrade have dismissed as preposterous.

Both the Dutch government and the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague have denied any links to the four.

Original article