Uproar over book ban



The Hague The district court of The Hague banned on 14 December 2015 the book De doofpotgeneraal (‘The Cover-up General’), that recounts an internal battle within Dutch military intelligence. The verdict is front page news in the Balkans, and is met with anger and disbelieve. Author Edwin Giltay is appealing the verdict.

In March 2014, Edwin Giltay submitted his manuscript to the Dutch Minister of Defence, who did not object to publica­tion. Eight months later, De doofpotgeneraal was published in Amsterdam.

Almost one year after the release, Edwin Giltay was summoned. Military analyst Caspar ten Dam: ‘I was in the courtroom with Edwin Giltay when the case against him and his book by a former officer of Dutch Military Intelligence (MID) was formally discussed. A few weeks later I heard that his book was banned, to my utter astonishment – and Edwin’s of course. Books are hardly ever banned in the Netherlands.’

The ex-spy claims that she is falsely described in The Cover-up General. Journalist Eric van de Beek: ‘I was present at the trial. The MID-lady did not bring a shred of evidence backing up her claim that what Giltay wrote is fiction.’

The court, nonetheless, banned the book as the surname and age of the former officer are allegedly stated incorrectly in the publication, and she was not offered the chance to respond to it in advance. However, the fact is the spy spelled her name in various ways in official documents. As a result, author Edwin Giltay – who uses in his book the same false spelling as used by the Armed Forces – was unable to trace her to hear her side of the story. So he went to the Defence Minister, who is responsible for the protection of the identity, reputation and safety of her (former) spies – she did not object to publication.

In intelligence circles, such spelling mistakes are made on purpose. The small variations help create confusion about the identity of Dutch secret agents, as Giltay already explained on page 171 of The Cover-up General. The judge however – who admitted she’d only read parts of the book – fell for this little spy trick. One disputed vowel let to the ban.

Caspar ten Dam: ‘Edwin’s book – only published in Dutch at this stage – deals amongst other things with the famous photo roll showing war crimes in Srebrenica in July 1995 that was ‘accidentally destroyed’ at a lab of Dutch Military Intelli­gence Service, and with accounts that Giltay heard that the photo roll may not have been destroyed after all, but kept somewhere in secret … For that reason alone, his book is of national and international significance. And (the implications of) his account urgently requires further independent research and, if necessary, legal proceedings against those who have participated in this cover-up.’

Although most attention in the Dutch and foreign press goes to Srebrenica, the book describes at heart an infighting within Dutch intelligence. The Cover-up General offered a disconcerting glimpse into a world where espionage, blackmail and the unauthorized use of resources are the order of the day, but is now covered-up itself.

Edwin Giltay lodged with his lawyer Jurian van Groenendaal his appeal against the censorship verdict at the Court of Appeal of The Hague. The court session at the Palace of Justice took place on 25 February 2016. The new verdict is ex­pected on 12 April, or earlier.

Note: The censorship court cases are described in detail in the eight new chapters of the second edition of The Cover-up General brought out in September 2016.