Dutch commandos press charges against Defense over fatal shooting at training range

Dutch amphibious soldiers of NLMARSOF surfacing in hostile territory
Dutch amphibious soldiers of NLMARSOF surfacing in hostile territoryPhoto: Rijksoverheid.nl / Wikimedia Commons

For the first time ever, Dutch soldiers are pressing charges against their employer. On Saturday five members of the Corps Commandos announced that they are pressing charges against the Ministry of Defense over a fatal accident in which Sander Klap was shot and killed during a training exercise in Ossendrecht last year. "If nothing changes, he died for nothing", one of the five soldiers said to newspaper AD on Tuesday.

Sander Klap was killed during Commando training at an Ossendrecht training range in March last year. The Commandos were practicing how to clear a house filled with hostiles. One soldier fired a shot at a picture of a perpetrator. The bullet went straight through the wall, hitting Klap and killing him. 

The accident hit the Netherlands' elite troops deeply. For a while a number of soldiers present at the training were considered suspects in Klap's death. To their great relief, the Public Prosecutor concluded that the soldiers were not to blame - the shooting range did not meet requirements and the safety procedures were not in order. The Dutch Safety Board also released a report on this incident, with damaging conclusions against Defense.

For a year and a half, the Dutch Commando troops kept their mouths shut, hoping that the Public Prosecutor and their military leaders will hold those responsible for Klap's death accountable. After the damaging report by the Safety Board, they again hoped that something would happen - that Defense would take action and make improvements. But for months now, there's been no movement in the case. The five soldiers therefore decided to take matters into their own hands, filing charges of death by negligence against Defense.

"Our biggest frustration is that the people responsible for this seem to be getting away with it", the soldiers speaking on behalf of all five of them, said to AD. Training at the shooting range was suspended, but it seems that nothing is being done about finding the people responsible. "We hoped that the Public Prosecutor would go through with this. But they too do nothing. We can not let that happen. If nothing changes, this man died for nothing."

Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert of Defense is facing the Tweede Kamer on Tuesday afternoon in what is expected to be a tough debate on a damaging Dutch Safety Report about another fatal incident during soldier training. This incident happened in Mali in July last year - two soldiers were killed when a mortar grenade exploded during training, a third was seriously injured. The Safety Board concluded that both the safety of the grenades, and the health care available to soldiers in Mali, were not in order. 



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