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Dutch News
"No torture in Iraq" 6/18/2007
18 June 2007

AMSTERDAM – The Dutch soldiers who questioned Iraqi detainees in autumn 2003 are not guilty of using torture practices. They did overstep the bounds of their authority however.

The Defence department dealt with the reports of possible careless treatment properly. In that sense nothing was swept under the carpet at the ministry.

These are the conclusions of the Van den Berg committee which handed over its report to Defence Minister Eimert van Middelkoop on Monday.

The committee charged with monitoring the actions of the intelligence and security services (CTIVD) also concluded that there are no indications of torture.

Rules of decency were breached however, says chairman of the CTIVD Irene Michiels van Kessenich. Her committee questioned 17 people as part of its inquiry, 14 of them under oath.

The two committees were charged with investigating the matter after reports last November that members of the Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) had allegedly tortured Iraqi prisoners in 2003.

The Dutch did step outside of their authority by using certain methods during questioning – exposing the prisoners to loud noise, dousing them with water and making them wear darkened ski goggles. In fact the Dutch were only authorised to take the prisoners'' names and ask what their intentions were.

The controversial methods were not used to put the detainees under pressure however, say Van den Berg and Michiels van Kessenich. They say these methods could not be defined as torture, nor as humiliation, except for in one case.

The treatment of a Saudi detainee did transgress the boundaries of article 3 of the European Human Rights Treaty, Van den Berg says.

The matter of whether an electric prod was used at some point is still unclear. There was one in the building where detainees were questioned, but witnesses cannot agree on whether it was used or not. The matter has been passed on to the public prosecution department.

The MIVD questioned a total of eight detainees and a number of informants. Michiels van Kessenich says it was unwise that the MIVD did not allow a legal adviser to be present at the questionings.

Van Middelkoop said the reports were "extremely thorough" and said he would take the conclusions and recommendations largely on board. He feels that the reports have "brought clarity" to the situation and restored the reputation of the Dutch armed forces at home and abroad.

"These soldiers are no longer regarded with any suspicion, they can look everyone in the eyes." Van Middelkoop will also hand over the reports to the public prosecution department.

In a reaction to the reports the Volkskrant has said it now laments the use of the word "torture" in the articles it published in November last year. The newspaper should not have used that term.

Editor in chief of the newspaper Pieter Broertjes said this today in response to the conclusions from the two committees. He is pleased however that the articles brought up the matter of the Dutch officers'' questioning methods for inquiry. "That is the newspaper''s job," he said.

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