Netherlands: RSF and FPU welcome convictions for the killing of journalist Peter R. de Vries

For Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and its strategic partner, Free Press Unlimited (FPU), which monitored the trial in Amsterdam, the first verdict for the killing of the journalist is an important milestone on the way to full justice. The Dutch authorities must continue by bringing to justice the mastermind of the 2021 assassination.

The Amsterdam Court convicted the two men who conducted the murder of journalist Peter R. de Vries to 28 years imprisonment and the middleman - dubbed by the prosecution as ‘homicide broker’ - to 26 years. The prosecutor had requested lifelong sentences for all three men, but the court argued that life sentences were not warranted as the suspects had not been convicted of similar crimes before and the existence of a ‘criminal organisation’ could not be proven. 

The prosecution also charged six other suspects for facilitating the crime, among others by accepting orders to film the assassination, an act the prosecution qualified as “intended to instil deep fear among the Dutch population”. The Amsterdam Court concluded that the intention to instil fear, and thereby the terrorist nature of the murder, could not be proven. This lack of evidence was partially due to the near complete silence of the suspects throughout the hearings, which took place in January and February of this year. In its verdict, the court strongly rejected the cold-blooded manner in which the murder was executed, and commemorated de Vries’ national and international reputation as a renowned crime reporter. 

Impact of the killing

The court concluded that the motive for the crime could not be proven, alleged by the prosecutor to have been de Vries’ role as a crown witness in the “Marengo trial”. While the murder was likely not directly linked to de Vries’ journalistic work, the prosecution and court acknowledged the impact of the crime on the rule of law and its institutions, as well as on the Dutch public given de Vries’ work as a crime reporter and frequent media appearances. During the hearings, evidence revealed several references to de Vries’ work as a journalist. Intercepted phone communication showed one of the suspects stated about de Vries after the murder: “He put his nose everywhere he shouldn't put it. That's why he was shot”.

“The convictions are encouraging news for the pursuit of justice for the killing of de Vries. We call on the Dutch Prosecutor to continue its investigation of those who ordered the murder - an act that succeeded in silencing  de Vries. In too many cases, those ultimately responsible for journalist killings, go free.

Jasmijn de Zeeuw
Legal advisor at FPU

“The condemnation of six men is an important milestone on the way to full justice for the assassination of Peter R. de Vries. We expect the Netherlands, ranked 4th in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index, to continue setting the bar high for the whole of the European Union which still struggles with the impunity of crimes committed against journalists.

Pavol Szalai
Head of the European Union-Balkans Desk at RSF

The mastermind of the murder was not formally identified nor charged during this trial. The  court did not rule out that “higher ranked individuals” had been involved in the crime, but could not comment further as the prosecutor had not included them in the indictment.  During the hearings, references to the potential mastermind were made. The “broker”, Krystian M., gave a brief statement to the Court after having seen testimony by de Vries’ children. He claimed to have been pressured into “forwarding messages” and stated concerns for his safety. Witness testimony presented by the prosecution suggested Ridouan T., the key suspect in the so-called “Marengo trial”, ordered the murder of de Vries. In February 2024, Ridouan T. was sentenced to life imprisonment in the first instance of “Marengo trial for having led a criminal organisation that committed at least five murders. Two years before his death, Peter R. de Vries had taken up the role of trust person and adviser to the crown witness in this trial. During one of the final hearings in February 2024, the prosecutor confirmed the investigation into the mastermind of the murder of de Vries is still ongoing. 

A professional “murder machine” 

Peter R. de Vries was murdered by a shotgun in Amsterdam on 6 July 2021 after leaving the TV studio of RTL Boulevard. He passed away due to his injuries nine days later. Peter R. de Vries was one of the Netherlands’ most well-known crime reporters, having built his career on news-breaking revelations in criminal cases. 

From 2019 onwards, he became a trust person and advisor to crown witness Nabil B. in the turbulent “Marengo-trial”. This trial revolves around a criminal organisation accused of running, in the words of the Dutch prosecutor, a professional “murder machine”. In February 2024, seventeen suspects including leader Ridouan T. were convicted for five murders, two attempted murders and preparations for murder in several other cases. The appeal proceedings in this trial started in April 2024. 

The investigation into the murder of de Vries started immediately after the attack, and led to the arrest of the shooter and driver of the getaway car on the same day, 6 July 2021. When new evidence, including crucial witness testimony, was identified, the case was halted in November 2022 and joined with the prosecution of six other suspects, suspected of having organised and facilitated the murder. Hearings resumed in January 2024. Evidence presented during these hearings indicated that the murder was linked to de Vries’ role in the Marengo trial, instead of his journalistic work. The court stated this could not be proven, in part due to the lack of insight into the motives of the perpetrators, who remained silent. Previously, two others associated with crown witness Nabil B. were murdered: the brother of crown witness Nabil B in 2018 and of one of B.’s lawyers, Derk Wiersum in 2019, both in reprisal for B.’s collaboration with the prosecution.

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