Soldier cleared on appeal over Iraqi’s death
4 May 2005
AMSTERDAM — The appeals court in Arnhem has acquitted marine Erik O. on charges relating to the death of an Iraqi looter at the end of 2003.
The court confirmed the verdict handed down by the trial court by ruling O. did not breach military rules of engagement in the December 2003 incident.
The public prosecutor had demanded a six-month suspended military jail term and a 240-hour work order against the 44-year-old sergeant-major.
Loud applause broke out in the courtroom on Wednesday morning when the verdict was read out. O. was also seen to hug his lawyer.
The appeals court accepted the trial court’s reasoning, acquitting O. based on international rules of engagement. The prosecutor had argued that Dutch regulations should apply.
The appeals court ruled that the use of violence not covered under Dutch regulations, but appropriate under international guidelines, is not prosecutable.
Serving with the Quick Reaction Force of the Dutch peacekeeping contingent in southern Iraq, O. said he fired a warning shot in the air and the ground on 27 December 2003 to protect Dutch troops from Iraqi looters near the city As Samawah.
The prosecutor claims one of the shots killed an Iraqi man and ordered his arrest. O. was brought home to face murder or manslaughter charges, but was eventually put on trial for the lesser crime of breaching military orders.
O. claimed his troops were at risk, but the prosecutor asserted that O. fired his weapon too quickly and cast doubt on the seriousness of the threat.
However O. was acquitted in Arnhem Court last October. The prosecutor then lodged an appeal, but was loudly criticised for the decision.
The initial arrest of the marine was also controversial, as military unions and MPs feared it put peacekeeping troops in a difficult situation and created confusion about military rules of engagement.
[Copyright Expatica News + ANP 2005]
Subject: Dutch news