Dutch marine cleared over 'fatal shooting'
18 October 2004 , AMSTERDAM — Arnhem Court acquitted a Dutch marine on Monday of breaching military orders in Iraq last December in a shooting incident which the public prosecutor claimed led to the death of an Iraqi citizen.
18 October 2004
AMSTERDAM — Arnhem Court acquitted a Dutch marine on Monday of breaching military orders in Iraq last December in a shooting incident which the public prosecutor claimed led to the death of an Iraqi citizen.
The public prosecutor demanded on 4 October that sergeant major Erik O. be sentenced to six months suspended military detention and a 240 hour work order. But the defence lawyer claimed that the prosecutor acted carelessly in arresting O. and that he should never have been prosecuted.
Despite the fact the more serious charges of murder or manslaughter were later dropped, the 43-year-old O. remained accused of breaching military orders of engagement. He allegedly fired two warning shots in the direction of a group of Iraqis accused of looting a truck container.
The prosecutor claimed that a 32-year-old Iraqi, Abdullah Moushar Aadhafa, was hit by one of the bullets. The man — also identified as Abdullah Al-Mashaalawi — died later of his wounds.
But it was never fully verified whether he died from a Dutch bullet as his body had not been thoroughly examined after the incident last year. Foreign Minister Ben Bot advised the prosecution last month against exhuming the body for further inquiries due to religious sensitivities.
Nevertheless, the prosecutor asserted that O. consciously fired into a group of Iraqi citizens, knowing that he was taking a great risk and therefore should not have fired his weapon. "There was no life or death situation," the prosecution claimed.
The prosecutor also said the victim was an innocent passer-by who was not involved in the looting of the truck container. Dutch troops deployed to the area to maintain law and order did not face any threat, the prosecutor claimed.
Some of the defendant's colleagues also denied that the incident was threatening. But defence lawyer Gert Jan Knoops said O. was the highest ranking officer at that point and was therefore the only one who could make a thorough assessment of the situation.
And O. previously told the military chamber of Arnhem Court that there was a life threatening situation because his troops could have been overrun by the Iraqis, despite witness statements saying they were not armed. The court agreed with O.'s assessment of the situation.
O. had also denied breaching military orders of violent engagement and said he was not 100 percent certain whether he actually shot the Iraqi.
Arrested on 31 December and flown home to the Netherlands, O. was released a week later due to a lack of evidence. His arrest had outraged military unions and MPs, raising concerns about the orders of engagement issued to Dutch peacekeeping troops in Iraq.
Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner later informed MPs by letter that the military orders are clear and are interpreted the same way by both the Justice and Defence ministries, news agency Novum reported.
Dozens of O.'s colleagues were in court when the ruling was handed down on Monday morning.
Delivering its judgement, the court said O. and his team were forced to operate under difficult, chaotic circumstances with insufficient personnel. It said it was plausible a threatening situation could have developed and the two warning shots were proportional and appropriate.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news