Union welcomes court ruling to free Dutch marine
7 January 2004, AMSTERDAM — The Dutch military trade union ACOM has welcomed a court's decision to release a marine who shot and killed a suspected looter in Iraq. The controversial investigation into the incident continues.
7 January 2004
AMSTERDAM — The Dutch military trade union ACOM has welcomed a court's decision to release a marine who shot and killed a suspected looter in Iraq. The controversial investigation into the incident continues.
ACOM also called on the Defence Ministry to give absolute clarity about the rules of engagement, or geweldsinstructie, for soldiers serving abroad on peacekeeping duties.
If military personnel adhered to the rules, he or she should not be afraid of prosecution or "other escapades" by the prosecutor's office (OM), a union spokesperson said.
The OM's decision to have the sergeant-major, 43, flown back from Iraq on 31 December to face either a murder or manslaughter charge has provoked an angry response from MPs and the military.
Court officials have refused to confirm the reasons for the magistrate's ruling that the suspect be released from custody. The prosecution has said it will not appeal the decision.
Defence lawyer Jan Knoops claimed the examining magistrate at Arnhem Court found that there was insufficient, concrete evidence to support the suspicion that his client had intentionally killed the victim.
Knoops said the Marechaussee military police service was now investigating whether a wayward warning shot had struck and killed the Iraqi.
The incident took place on 27 December when eight Dutch soldiers tried to stop 70 Iraqis who were plundering a freight container that had fallen off a truck. The sergeant-major, who is a trained marksman, was in charge of the Dutch patrol.
Knoops said his client loaded his weapon to show the crowd he was serious but they refused to back off. He then fired two warning shots, one into the air and the second into the ground.
"One man in the crowd of Iraqis appeared to stumble as if wounded, but there are still a lot of questions about what happened to him," the lawyer claimed.
Knoops speculated that there may have been a mix up with two bodies. He said the Iraqis placed a body with a leg wound and a bloodied chest by the side of the road. A short time later there appeared to be a body with a wound in the back.
Witnesses contradicted the prosecutor's claim that the marine shot the victim in the back from a long distance. The Marechaussee were looking into the possibility the victim was struck by a ricochet, Knoops said.
The Netherlands gave "political but not military support" to the US-led invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein. However the government sent 1,100 marines in the summer to relieve American troops guarding Al Muthanna in southern Iraq.
The area is regarded as a relatively peaceful desert province, but due to rising security concerns 70 commandos were dispatched late last year to bolster the Dutch force.
There were two new incidents on Saturday 3 January in which Dutch troops fired warning shots at civilians in Iraq, but no injuries were reported in those cases.
Separately, the Guardian newspaper reported on Wednesday that the Ministry of Defence has paid compensation, believed to amount of thousands of pounds, to three families of Iraqi civilians allegedly killed by British troops.
In another incident, three American soldiers were discharged from the army this week after being found guilty of mistreating Iraqi detainees at a prisoner-of-war camp in Iraq in May 2003.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004 + Novum Nieuws]
Subject: Dutch news + Iraq