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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06THEHAGUE690 2006-03-31 11:39:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy The Hague
Cable title:  

NETHERLANDS: DUTCH VERSION OF TAILHOOK NAVY

Tags:   PREL MARR MOPS PGOV NL 
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DE RUEHTC #0690/01 0901139
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O 311139Z MAR 06
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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5260
INFO RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L THE HAGUE 000690 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/28/2016
TAGS: PREL MARR MOPS PGOV NL
SUBJECT: NETHERLANDS: DUTCH VERSION OF TAILHOOK NAVY
SCANDAL?


Classified By: Political Counselor Andrew Schofer, reasons 1.4 (b,d)



1. (C) Summary. The Dutch Navy and Ministry of Defense are
scrambling to address recent media reports alleging
scandalous and possibly criminal behavior aboard Dutch naval
vessels. One story involves allegations by a female crew
member of sexual intimidation, assault, and drug abuse on
board the HM Tjerk Hiddes; another concerns Dutch sailors in
the Persian Gulf reenacting Abu Ghraib abuses as an
"initiation ritual." Acting Prime Minister Zalm said the
Dutch Cabinet was shocked by the allegations and called for
an investigation of all armed forces. MOD State Secretary
Cees van der Knaap ordered a full investigation by an
independent committee. Parliamentary interest is high; at
least one member has called for "significant change" in the
culture of the armed services. End summary.

The Incidents


--------------------------





2. (C) Over the past week, Dutch media have reported
extensively on a series of allegations of sexual
intimidation, assault and drug abuse on board the HM Tjerk
Hiddes, a Dutch naval vessel on a four-month mission to the
Persian Gulf. The allegations were brought to light by the
AFMP military union following the dismissal of a female
corporal, who claimed she and other female colleagues had
been sexually assaulted on board the Tjerk Hiddes. The
alleged victim also reported heavy alcohol and drug use among
crew members.



3. (C) Separately, Dutch media also reported on an incident
on board the HMS Amsterdam that occurred last year in which
crew members reenacted scenes from photos taken at the Abu
Ghraib prison. According to crew members, the reenactment
was meant as an "initiation ritual." At least some of the
sailors allegedly involved in the initiation reportedly were
of Muslim origin. The HMS Amsterdam is currently serving in
CTF-150.

MOD Responds


--------------------------





4. (C) MOD State Secretary Cees van der Knaap ordered a full
investigation by an independent committee consisting of two
Queen's commissioners and the director of the Expertise
Center of Forensic Psychiatry. Defense Minister Kamp said
that he did not want to downplay the alleged incidents, and
recognized that the armed forces must set an example. At the
same time, however, Kamp also said the extent of the
misconduct within the armed forces was "no worse than within
other organizations." Kamp denied the existence of a
"culture of cover-up" within the armed forces. Dutch Navy
service commander Adm. Kelder -- who canceled a trip to
Curacao to discuss Partnership of the Americas after reports
of the incidents broke -- noted that with a navy of 11,000
persons, there are "undoubtedly some rotten apples among
them." He said he would meet separately with the commanders
of Dutch naval vessels to remind them of the need to abide by
the rules of conduct aboard naval vessels.

Labor Union Outrage


--------------------------





5. (C) AFMP Union President van den Burg accused Kamp as
downplaying both incidents and the extent of the problem
within the Dutch armed forces. He added that naval
leadership had pressured him to forego going public on a
number of other incidents. Van den Burg said the incidents
reflect a "degeneration of norms and values" and pointed to
increased pressure due to budget cuts. As a result, Dutch
naval vessels are sailing with minimal crews, leading to
tension and officers more inclined to "look the other way"
with regard to conduct infractions, he said.

Parliamentary Involvement


--------------------------





6. (C) Labor Party (PvdA) spokesperson Angelien Eijsink -- a
possible Defense Minister candidate should the Labor Party
win the national election in 2007 -- condemned the incidents
but hoped they would ultimately lead to reform. She argues
that the incidents aboard the Tjerk Hiddes are but the "tip
of the iceberg," and said van der Knaap has completely
ignored the issue and should have called for an independent
investigation long ago. Eijsink noted that the MOD wrongly
interprets the absence of complaints of sexual harassment or
assault as evidence that no problems exist. On the contrary,
Eijsink said, few female soldiers file complaints and would

rather resign due to pressure and intimidation within the
services.

Comment


--------------------------





7. (C) While it is unclear how damaging the alleged incidents
will be for the Dutch Navy in the long run, the Dutch
military leadership is obviously taking them very seriously
-- as evidenced by Adm. Kelder's canceled trip to Curacao.
Recruitment for the Dutch navy is already the lowest of all
Dutch armed forces, and could sink even lower if the negative
media attention is not effectively dealt with. While most
Parliamentarians appear momentarily satisfied that van der
Knaap's call for an independent investigation is a good first
step, Eijsink's comments that the political opposition -- and
perhaps some members of the coalition parties as well -- will
not let this issue drop, especially during an election year.


ARNALL