Military, Ministry withheld details about fatal mortar accident; Relatives angry
The Ministry of Defense, the Koninklijke Marechaussee (KMar), and the Public Prosecution Service (OM) knew that overdue maintenance caused a fatal mortar grenade accident in Mali in 2016 but did not disclose it. Instead, they stuck to their own investigations, even when it became clear that their conclusions could not be correct. The Dutch Safety Board (OVV) came to this conclusion after reviewing the case again.
In 2017, the OVV published a very critical report that showed that Defense “had fallen seriously short.” The OVV concluded that the ignition mechanism of the mortar grenade was unstable - moisture and heat had made it shock-sensitive and explosive. This caused the grenade to detonate prematurely during a training exercise. Soldiers Henry Hoving, 29, and Kevin Roggeveld, 24, were killed in the mortar accident near Kidal, and a third person was seriously injured.
However, the Ministry of Defense and the KMar presented their own investigations and questioned the OVV conclusions. According to the Ministry of Defense, a manufacturing error caused the accident.
Late last year, the OM decided not to prosecute the Defense employees involved because the KMar and OVV’s fact investigations were not unanimous about what happened. But the OM had a report it commissioned from the British Defense Department in 2019 endorsing the OVV’s conclusions.
“The expert report estimates the reliability of the Knowledge Center for Weapons and Ammunition's view - that a mechanical deviation of the detonator was the cause - at less than 1 percent reliable,” the British experts said in the report. The OM never shared it with Defense.
Considering its conclusions, one would expect that the OM immediately shared the report with the Ministry of Defense in 2019, as they were the employer involved in the fatal accident and responsible for preventing future incidents, the OVV wrote.
The OVV decided to reopen its investigation from 2017 because its conclusions conflicted with the conclusions drawn by the Ministry of Defense. It “found no new facts that give rise to reconsidering the conclusions from the previous investigation.” Its criticism of the Ministry therefore stands
The surviving relatives of the two soldiers who died said they want a criminal investigation into the incident, said their lawyer, Michael Ruperti. The KMar and the OM have conducted “flawed investigations” and drawn the wrong conclusions, he said.
The relatives of Hoving and Roggeveld are happy with the new report from the OVV, their attorney said. They are hopeful that the OM will still prosecute the responsible employees at the Ministry of Defense. If that does not happen, they intend to ask the Tweede Kamer to investigate the situation.
“As far as we are concerned, there is a cover-up up to the highest level at Defense,” said the lawyer. The leader of the investigation into the accident at the Ministry of Defense also said that senior military personnel did not tell the truth, he added. “Facts have been withheld.”.
Reporting by ANP