Defence chiefs meet over soldier abuse scandal

30th November 2004, Comments 0 comments

30 November 2004 , BERLIN - German Defence Minister Peter Struck is to meet army chiefs on Tuesday over a deepening scandal concerning abuse of young soldiers.

30 November 2004

BERLIN - German Defence Minister Peter Struck is to meet army chiefs on Tuesday over a deepening scandal concerning abuse of young soldiers.

Officials said Struck would meet the army, navy and air force chiefs to discuss allegations that bullying trainers used electro-shocks and cold-water drenchings on soldiers who were not in the crack regiments where tough-guy war games are common.

The Defence Ministry said it was investigating claims of a possible fourth instance where conscripts were allegedly abused by their trainers.

Prosecutors in the northern town of Verden meanwhile opened an inquiry against trainers who tied up a male and two female soldiers.

A senior army media spokesman, Colonel Wolfgang Fett, said the army required all personnel being deployed abroad to take part in an exercise where they were ambushed and treated as hostages.

Under the ground rules, they attended theory classes on how to react. In the practical exercise afterwards, they were surprised, taken away with hands bound and blindfolded and forced to remain kneeling.

"The soldiers are supposed to learn ways to keep their courage up if they get taken prisoner or hostage. The idea is to quell fear and learn that you shouldn't try to play the hero, but nurture your hope and see that you survive," he said.

Fett said young men who were merely doing compulsory military training without going abroad were only supposed to do the theory, not the practical exercise. This should never include the use of electro-shocks or physical injury.

Wolfgang Schneiderhan, the armed forces' highest officer, ordered the forces Monday to discover if there had been abuses.

So far there have been complaints about abuses at four army bases around Germany. More than 20 officers and NCOs at Coesfeld in the north face a civil inquiry into claims they overstepped the mark.

The German military ombudsman, Wilfried Penner, said Monday he was checking allegations that recruits were ambushed during a night march near a base at Kempten in the lower Alps, blindfolded and locked in a damp basement.

The German military has spent the past decade restructuring from a combined air and armour force to fight the Warsaw Pact in Europe into a mobile organization that can enforce peace in distant trouble- spots.


Subject: German news 

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