Soldiers ‘have clear engagement rules’
6 January 2004
AMSTERDAM — Despite the shooting death of a suspected Iraqi looter, Defence Minister Henk Kamp said on Tuesday the orders of violent engagement for Dutch marines in Iraq will remain unchanged.
The minister said the rules under which troops may use violence are completely clear and that the shooting incident was no reason to modify them. Kamp said the orders adequately equipped the soldiers to carry out their tasks.
Furthermore, the minister said in a letter to the Lower House of Parliament, the Tweede Kamer, that he intends to maintain the separation of responsibility between the Public Prosecution Office (OM), the military police (Koninklijke Marechaussee) and the Defence Ministry.
Kamp pointed out that the Srebrenica tragedy in 1995 had demonstrated how important it was for the discovery of truth if the nation’s military police could independently carry out criminal investigations under the authority of the OM. The letter implied that the Defence Ministry did not intend to interfere in the current investigation.
Lightly-armed and heavily outnumbered Dutch UN peacekeeping troops surrendered to invading Serb troops without firing a shot at the Srebrenica Muslim “safe haven” mid-1995 and about 7,000 Muslim men and boys were subsequently slaughtered by Serb troops.
The official investigation by Dutch war documentation institute NIOD placed sharp criticism on Dutch military commanders, the government and the United Nations, leading to the resignation of the Wim Kok Cabinet at the start of 2002.
While the 27 December shooting incident in Iraq — which saw the arrest of a 43-year-old sergeant-major on murder allegations — does not equal the magnitude of the Srebrenica massacre, it has raised concerns about Dutch military procedures.
The arrest has attracted sharp criticism from the military, MPs, lawyers, unions and legal experts. Defence lawyer Geert-Jan Knoops said he was amazed at the manner in which the OM publicly accused his client, but the prosecution said the OM went public with the case because questions were placed by the media.
OM chief J. de Wijkerslooth also said on current affairs show Nova on Monday night that Dutch troops in Iraq have clear rules in using force and that he could not comprehend why military unions were complaining that the orders were unclear.
The chairman of military union AFMP, Wim van den Brug, earlier said the murder allegations were too extreme and that there must be no situation “in which soldiers are doing their work and must continually ask themselves if they will be prosecuted by the OM”.
But De Wijkerslooth said he doubted whether the suspect had stuck to the rules of engagement. “There is a reasonable suspicion of guilt,” he said, claiming that the soldier had fired twice and that despite the fact that Iraqi’s body was not examined, there is sufficient evidence for murder, culpable homicide or manslaughter charges.
The soldier was arrested on 31 December for allegedly shooting an Iraqi civilian near the city of As Samawah in southern Iraq as Dutch soldiers tried to disperse about 70 looters from a freight container that had fallen off a truck.
The prosecution asserts the man was shot in the back from a long distance and that the situation did not present a safety threat. The man was flown home on 1 January and is being detained in the Soesterberg military police barracks.
The man was due to appear in court on Tuesday when a decision was to be made whether to extend his remand order.
There are presently 1,170 Dutch troops serving on peacekeeping duties in Iraq. Parliament resolved at the end of last year to extend the mission by another six months.
[Copyright Expatica News 2004]
Subject: Dutch news