The investigation into Khadija Arib, officially announced on Tuesday, becomes the fifth of its kind in national politics in a year. D66 involved the Van Drimmelen affair, a prominent and influential party member who is said to have been guilty of transgressive behaviour. D66 appeared to have agreed with research agency Bing that two reports would be made: one public, the other confidential. Disagreements arose about this.
In the Bij1 party, research was conducted into co-founder Quinsy Gario, who is said to have exhibited ‘manipulative and toxic behaviour’. There, too, the results of the investigation – conducted by law firm Van Overbeek de Meyer – were never made public. Gario, deeply frustrated, decided to withdraw from the game after heavy pressure.
MP Nilufer Gündogan was suspended by Volt for transgressive behavior, but was not told what that behavior entailed or who the complainants were. She declined to participate in the investigation, which was conducted by research firm Bing, and filed a lawsuit that is still pending.
Member of parliament Gijs van Dijk was suspended by the PvdA because his dealings with women would not be in accordance with the code of conduct of the House of Representatives and the party’s code of honor. Van Dijk was also not told who had complained or what the complaints involved. He initially refused to cooperate. He was only allowed to view the report from research bureau Bezemer & Schubad for a limited time after much insistence, the full report is still confidential. His case is now being heard by the PvdA’s appeals committee.
Wild growth of research
Accusations of transgressive behavior are not a novelty in national politics, but lately the phenomenon in The Hague, as elsewhere in society, has been increasing rapidly. Many reports are also received in showbiz, the cultural sector, the media, sports organisations, municipalities and educational institutions. The organizations that investigate transgressive behavior also notice this; as early as May, they reported a 40 percent growth in the number of cases.
Anyone wishing to have transgressive behavior investigated can choose from a wide range of options. Forensic accountants, criminal investigation companies, specialized agencies such as Bing and Schubad & Bezemer, emeritus professors or retired judges and police officers, law firms; all of them offer their services. State attorney Pels Rijcken, who advised the Presidium of the House of Representatives to investigate Arib’s conduct, also offers such an investigation.
There are no generally applicable guidelines for such research. Accountants have to make do with a guide to regulate person-oriented research. Lawyers have their own disciplinary facilities. They can be tapped by the Council of Discipline. Earlier this year, he determined in a case involving lawyer Aldo Verbruggen and entrepreneur Gerard Sanderink that the roles of lawyer and independent researcher cannot be combined in one person.
Other agencies and researchers have at most their own complaints facility if there are objections to the working method. While the sector is very accessible. A digital course can be taken for a few hundred euros that leads to ‘person-oriented research’.
There should be a register for integrity investigations, with a quality mark, disciplinary law and complaints procedure, believes Bert Bruins of accountancy firm Integis, which conducts a lot of such investigations. There are few requirements to start a private research agency, said researcher Peter Schokker of the Bing agency. He is also in favor of better rules for the sector, as is Koos Schoonbeek, chairman of the Private Investigation Agency section of the Dutch Security Industry.
These research agencies often offer a follow-up process with their final report: mediation, counseling of victims or suspects and organizational advice. In this way, research into transgressive behavior can become a revenue model.
The fact that some organizations have their own integrity investigation service is no guarantee of reliability. This week it was announced in a letter to Parliament from State Secretary Van der Maat of Defense that he is commissioning an external committee at his ministry to investigate misconduct at COID, the Central Organization for Integrity of Defense. This would involve ‘indecent and socially unsafe behaviour’.
Call for rules
The reports are increasing to such an extent that the government appointed Mariëtte Hamer this spring to come up with proposals as government commissioner for cross-border behavior and sexual violence. “I see situations where the research is not the solution, but magnifies the problem,” Hamer said in May. ‘The combination of investigation and disclosure is particularly complicated, especially if victims or accused do not trust the investigation.’ Hamer believes that there should be a ‘regulatory framework’ for researchers. This year she will be holding ‘in-depth sessions with experts’ to arrive at an advice.
Unlike in criminal law, both the rights of the suspect and those of the complainants are not properly regulated in investigations into transgressive behavior, according to the cases that have been publicized recently. This concerns access to the files and the way in which anonymity and confidentiality are maintained. There are also no standard agreements about possible legal support for the parties in such an investigation.
The role of the client – in Arib’s case: the presidium of the House of Representatives – is decisive. This determines whether, how and when the results will be made public, who will see those results and whether the scope of the investigation needs to be adjusted in the process.
Christiaan Alberdingk Thijm, Gijs van Dijk’s lawyer, has strong reservations about investigations into transgressive behavior without the accused cooperating. “Then you can get results that won’t hold up in court.”
The Presidium of the House of Representatives has not yet announced who will conduct the investigation, when it will start and what the exact assignment will be. Khadija Arib has already announced that he will not cooperate with an investigation.