Dutch troops arrest Iraqis for killing Spaniard
1 March 2004
AMSTERDAM — Dutch peacekeeping soldiers in Iraq have arrested 10 Iraqis, two of whom are wanted in connection with the murder of a Spanish paramilitary police officer last month. The two men have been handed over to British forces.
Major Gonzalo Perez Garcia, security chief for the Spanish-Latin American Plus Ultra brigade in the US-led coalition, was shot in the head during an anti-terrorist raid on a house in the southern Iraqi town of Hamsa on 22 January.
The other eight arrested Iraqis are suspected of involvement in major crimes such as armed robbery and hijacking of cars and trucks. The men have been handed over to Iraqi authorities.
The Dutch Defence Ministry said the arrests were carried out early on Saturday morning without a shot being fired, Dutch public news service NOS reported.
A co-ordinated operation involving Dutch, Spanish and British forces in several regions led to the arrests and the Iraqi authorities were also involved.
One of the suspects tried to escape by swimming across the Euphrates River, but was located by an unmanned British reconnaissance plane and eventually arrested.
A military spokesman said the arrests demonstrated that Dutch troops had not lost their head due to the political and legal debate in the Netherlands about the orders regulating the use of violence. “We are simply getting on with our work,” he said.
The spokesman was referring to the controversy surrounding the arrest of a marine in December on allegations he murdered a suspected Iraqi looter.
The man was released in January due to a lack of evidence, but MPs and the Public Prosecution Office (OM) have raised serious questions about the clarity of military orders.
MPs were assuaged after Justice Minister Piet Hein Donner promised to send a letter to all chief prosecutors explaining the orders governing military force issued to Dutch peacekeeping troops in Iraq.
Both Defence Minister Henk Kamp and Minister Donner had earlier said last week that Dutch troops may use violence in Iraq if necessary, contradicting a confidential letter from OM chief Joan de Wijkerslooth.
The leaked letter had indicated the Dutch troops may not even fire warning shots in Iraq, but the OM later clarified its statement, saying that troops may only use force in certain situations.
And Donner’s promise to officially clarify the situation with prosecution chiefs led government coalition parties Democrat D66 and the Liberal VVD to drop their concerns, news agency ANP reported on Friday night.
There are about 1,300 Dutch troops stationed in the south of Iraq. They are patrolling a thinly-populated desert province and are scheduled to start transferring power to Iraqi authorities this month. The troops will remain in the region until at least mid-year.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news