The Dutch politician died last Monday by euthanasia, hand in hand with his wife, Eugenie, both aged 93. Prof van Agt served as prime minister from 1977 to 1982, and served as ambassador of the European Union to the United States from 1990 to1995.
In a statement issued on Monday evening, Mr Higgins said since learning of the former prime minister’s death, he had been “reflecting on his life and the significant contribution which he made”.
“I thought that the best tribute which I could make to Professor van Agt at this time, would be to reissue the statement from August 2005 on behalf of the European Delegation to Israel and Palestine, of which both he and I were a part,” he said.
“The statement, which follows below, was issued by the members of our delegation after our visit at one of the times of greatest transition in Gaza. How sad it is that two decades later we find ourselves on the brink of starvation for the people of Gaza and the State of Israel in breach of international law.”
In the 2005 statement, the delegation, which was led by was led by Prof van Agt, it said the occupation of the Gaza Strip is “far from over, considering Israel’s continuing control over vital aspects of the lives of the Gazans”.
“All external borders, including air and sea, remain controlled by Israel, so that they continue to be isolated. The Israeli army is to remain inside parts of the Gaza Strip for an undisclosed period,” the 2005 statement said.
“The Delegation witnessed some of the widespread destruction that 38 years of occupation have brought to the lives and properties of over one million Palestinians in The Gaza Strip. About two thirds of the local population is unemployed and lives below the poverty line. These conditions pose a real and continuous threat to their human dignity.”