Poor military safety led to Dutch soldier grenade deaths in Mali

The Ministry of Defense's policy is insufficiently focused on safety on all fronts, and there is therefore no guarantee that military tasks can be executed safely, the Van der Veer Committee concluded in its investigation into an accidental grenade explosion that killed two Dutch soldiers during training in Mali. "Improving safety is not rocket science", the committee said adding that this needs urgent attention, NOS reports.

The committee led by former Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer was established by former Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert just before she resigned. She ordered this investigation following a damning report by the Dutch Safety Board on the Mali incident. Soldiers Henry Hoving and Kevin Roggeveld were killed and a third soldier was seriously injured when a mortar grenade exploded during a training exercise in July 2016. 

The Van der Veer Committee recommends that the Defense leaders make a point of discussing safety first thing in every meeting, before anything else is discussed. A safety director should be appointed and safety policy must become an integral part of all activities, with regular checks and improvements being implemented, the committee advises.

Minister Ank Bijleveld of Defense said in a letter to parliament that she accepts the committee's conclusions and will implement the recommendations. She added that the appointment of an independent security supervisor is already in motion. "Defense must recognize that safety management at the Ministry of Defense has failed at the organizational level and that the mortar grenade accident in Mali is related to this", the Minister wrote, according to NOS. "That is a hard and clear conclusion."

The committee did not make any comment about whether Defense can be held liable for the death of the two soldiers, according to the broadcaster. That is up to the Public Prosecutor to decide. The mother of one of the soldiers previously stated that she plans to hold Defense accountable for her son's death