Sleeping marines face 5 months detention
17 February 2004
AMSTERDAM — The prosecution has demanded a five-month military detention sentence for two Dutch peacekeeping marines who fell asleep at their guard post in Iraq on 15 August last year.
Because the marines fell asleep, the patrol area was left unguarded and the prosecution claims that troops were therefore placed at threat. It said a “threatening situation” could have had disastrous consequences.
But military unions are surprised at the demand, with the AFMP claiming that it is “excessive”, pointing out that heat and work pressure contributed to the incident. Union VBM is also opposed to the prosecution’s demand.
The lawyer representing the two marines said that neither the government nor the military informed soldiers that their deployment in Iraq was considered a wartime mission, a term the prosecution used in its summons. The lawyer also said the two marines did not intentionally fall asleep.
The Dutch troops had only just started their mission in the southern Iraqi province of Al Muthanna when the incident occurred, public news service NOS reported.
Living conditions were very primitive in the first few weeks and sleeping during the day and at night was difficult due to the extreme heat because there were no tents with air conditioning.
There are about 1,150 Dutch troops serving with the SFIR stabilisation force in Iraq. The mission has been extended until mid-year, but US Secretary of State Colin Powell recently requested the Dutch to stay on in Iraq.
Meanwhile, Democrat D66 government MP Bert Bakker has raised concerns about the case against the two marines.
Referring to the arrest of a Dutch marine on allegations he murdered a suspected Iraqi looter in December, the MP said the prosecution had asserted the shooting occurred in the absence of wartime circumstances.
But Bakker said the prosecution is now claiming in the case against the two marines that there was a wartime situation. He said the discrepancy was strange.
Sergeant-major Erik O. was ordered released by the Arnhem Court last month due to a lack of evidence, but has not been allowed to return to duties in Iraq. Instead, he remains a suspect in the case, but returned to work earlier this month at the marine barracks in Doorn, near Utrecht.
The court will hand down its ruling in the case against the two marines on 1 March.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news