Expatica news

Marine set to return to Iraq

26 January 2004

AMSTERDAM — Defence Minister Henk Kamp is poised to order the 43-year-old marine who was previously accused of murdering an Iraqi civilian to return to duty with Dutch peacekeeping troops stationed in the south of Iraq.

The sergeant-major was arrested and flown home to the Netherlands after a suspected Iraqi looter was shot and killed on 27 December. The man was released earlier this month when the Arnhem Court ruled there was insufficient evidence to warrant his continued detention.

The Iraqi man was shot as Dutch troops tried to disperse looters near the city of As Samawah and the Dutch military police, Marechausee, is still investigating the case. But military police recently indicated there was no definite legal basis for the suspect, Erik O., to be accused of murder or manslaughter.

Inquiries are expected to completed mid-next week and Minister Kamp said on television current affairs programme Buitenhof on Sunday that the marine would then be allowed to return to his duties in Iraq.

The arrest of the marine led to sharp criticism from both MPs and military unions, but Kamp — who dismissed concerns over the clarity of the rules of engagement for Dutch peacekeepers — said he did not object to the investigation being carried out by the Public Prosecution Office (OM).

“If an Iraqi is shot, there may always be an investigation set up,” he said. “But what I do have problems with, is that if an incident occurs that we are involved in, people always assume that it is wrong. The words that the OM uses — such as culpable homicide, manslaughter, murder — are all premature.”

The minister’s comments echo those of defence lawyer Jan Knoops, who complained at the start of January that the OM had prematurely raised public allegations against the marine. For its turn, the OM said it went public after questions were posed by the media.

Erik O. later said he felt humiliated by the arrest and claimed he acted in good conscience.

There are currently about 1,100 Dutch troops stationed in the south of Iraq. The soldiers will start the gradual transfer of power to the Iraqi authorities in March, but will remain in the country until at least mid-year.

[Copyright Novum Nieuws 2004]

Subject: Dutch news