Investigation into Dutch military rape and abuse claims

THE HAGUE (AFP) - The Dutch defence minister Thursday (Nov 2) announced an investigation after soldiers revealed fresh allegations of harassment, abuse, assault and rape in the army.

Three soldiers said they quit their unit in Schaarsbergen, in the western Arnhem region, in 2014 after being subjected to abuse by senior officers, according to the newspaper De Volkskrant.

One of the soldiers, who recently tried to kill himself, filed a complaint about the incidents two weeks ago, accusing military personnel of assault, intimidation, drug use and drug dealing, stealing munitions and possessing illegal firearms, the paper reported.

It's claimed the soldiers' superiors urinated on them and, among other abuses, a soldier was raped by an officer with his finger, while wearing a latex glove.

"It is very important the military gives colleagues the support they need," stated Barbara Visser, defence secretary, who also said she was "shocked" by the revelations.

The military police launched a criminal investigation and four soldiers have been disciplined and transferred to other units, according to De Volkskrant.

The military also appealed for soldiers and citizens to report abuse and to not be afraid to file a complaint.

"Discrimination, intimidation, or any behaviour beyond the limits is totally inadmissable and doesn't correspond to the army," added Visser, in a statement.

The armed forces union VBM has called for initiation rituals to be scrapped.

"I have had to deal with too many incidents in the last few years which have turned out badly," said Jean Debie, president of VBM, to NOS Radio 1.

Commander of the Dutch armed forces, Leo Beulen, condemned what happened to the three soldiers, but argued that initiation rituals "take place under controlled and predetermined conditions".

"Intimidation has absolutely no place there," he said, quoted on the NOS website.

The defence ministry recently said it had received dozens of complaints of sexual abuse in the military since 2013.