Expatica news

Humiliated marine: I acted honourably

8 January 2004

AMSTERDAM — The Dutch peacekeeping marine arrested on allegations he shot and murdered a suspected Iraqi looter has said he acted in good conscience and feels humiliated by his arrest and subsequent detention.

In an interview with daily newspaper De Telegraaf, the 43-year-old sergeant-major, Erik O., said on Thursday that if placed in the same situation he would act exactly the way he did last month.

The man was arrested several days after a 27 December shooting and arrived home in the Netherlands on 1 January. But after spending five days in detention at the military police barracks in Soesterberg, the man was ordered released by an Arnhem judge on Tuesday. 

The judge ruled there was insufficient evidence to warrant the marine’s continued detention and the Public Prosecution Office (OM) has ruled out an appeal. But investigations into the shooting incident continue.

The Iraqi man was shot and killed when Dutch marines fired warning shots to try and disperse a group of about 70 looters near the southern Iraqi city of As Samawah, where the Dutch peacekeeping mission is based.

It was alleged the man was shot in the back at long range, but witnesses have refuted this and claims have also been made over a possible body mix-up.

The marine has since said he was astonished at how he was removed from Iraq.

“Such a scenario doesn’t even happen in your worst nightmare. I was brought to Kuwait by bus accompanied by military police and ‘celebrated’ the turn of the year in a KLM plane to Schiphol,” he said.

The arrest has sparked commotion in the Netherlands when the OM publicly said the man could be charged with murder, culpable homicide or manslaughter. MPs and defence lawyer Jan Knoops have sharply criticised how the matter was handled.

But despite concern over unclear military commands, Defence Minister Henk Kamp said the rules of violent engagement for the peacekeeping troops in Iraq will not be modified.

The sergeant-major has since said he did not object to the military police, Koninklijke Marechaussee, investigating all shooting incidents involving Dutch troops. “That prevents wild west situations. But with a hand on my heart I can state that I always stuck to the rules,” he said.

Erik O. also said he could not accept the fact he was detained for the shooting: “That has damaged me as a person, I feel humiliated and embittered. I would preferably return today to my unit in the desert”.

But despite the man’s wishes, the Defence Ministry temporarily ruled out on Wednesday allowing his return to Iraq.

[Copyright Expatica News 2004]

Subject: Dutch news + Iraq