Dutch Officer Pleads Innocent in Shooting

Wext: Thursday, 30.September. @ 00:00:00 CEST

Mijar:

27. Sep. 2004, ARNHEM, Netherlands - A Dutch officer pleaded innocent Monday to charges of negligence and excessive use of force in the fatal shooting of an Iraqi civilian, in the first court martial of a Dutch serviceman in Iraq.

Sgt. Maj. Eric Jan Overvoorde, 43, said he fired two warning shots — one in the air and one at the ground — when he believed the lives of his men were endangered by a group of Iraqis. One of the shots, fired from a distance of 75-100 yards, is believed to have killed an Iraqi man.

Overvoorde faces charges of violating the rules of engagement, endangering the lives of others, excessive use of force and negligence leading to the death of the Iraqi civilian. The court martial is scheduled to last three days. He pleaded innocent to all charges and contested that he had killed the victim. "He was alive when I saw him being taken away," he said.

At times holding back tears, Overvoorde told a panel of two civilian judges and a uniformed military officer during intense questioning that he fired the shots to keep back a group of some 100-200 Iraqis who had gathered near a container that had fallen off an American convoy in December.

Overvoorde and 14 other Dutch troops were ordered to secure the cargo.

"The situation was on the verge of getting out of control," the defendant told the tribunal. "I did what I did because the situation we were in could have become life-threatening for my men."

Overvoorde said he "weighed the situation carefully" before firing his weapon and that he would do the same thing now "despite all that has happened."

"It was supposed to hit the ground to the left in front of the group," he said. "I didn't have anyone in my sights."

Overvoorde said he had been unable to radio for backup because of communications problems and feared the "situation was about to go from bad to worse."

The crowd was unarmed, but a small group had picked up stones and had begun looting the cargo container, he said, adding that it was the most threatening situation he had experienced in Iraq and was the first time he had fired warning shots.

Overvoorde said coalition medics arrived at the scene "within 30 seconds" and attempted to treat the wounded man, who was bleeding from the mouth, but they were stopped by the crowd. The man was taken away in a pickup truck and died later in hospital.

Around 1,100 Dutch troops were sent to southern Iraq in August, 2003, serving under British command.

Overvoorde, a sniper who served as a member of the Dutch Special Forces, was decorated for previous service as a peacekeeper in Bosnia.

Nine witnesses, including five experts, were due to testify this week. Closing arguments and sentencing recommendations will be made on Thursday.

Meanwhile, a British soldier charged with murdering a civilian in Iraq appeared briefly in a London civilian court Monday.

Trooper Kevin Williams, a member of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, is charged with murdering Hassan Said in Dayr, near the city of Basra in southern Iraq, on Aug. 3, 2003. The Old Bailey court ordered Williams, 21, to remain free on bail until the next hearing, slated for Oct. 25. He said nothing apart from acknowledging his name.

Williams was charged in a civilian court earlier this month after his commanding officer blocked a court martial.


Source: AP








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