Photos reveal Belgian paratroopers' abuse in Somalia
April 17, 1997
Web posted at: 4:58 p.m. EDT (2058 GMT)
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BRUSSELS, Belgium (CNN) -- Belgian military officials
Thursday promised a thorough review of training exercises,
following the publication of photos of alleged atrocities by
elite paratroopers during the 1993 U.N. Somalia peace
Defense Minister Jean-Pol Poncelet said he was considering
disbanding the elite Belgian paratrooper unit at the center
of the scandal. The newest photos, published Wednesday in the
daily newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws, include one of a Belgian
paratrooper urinating on the face of a dead Somali.
Photos released earlier show two paratroopers holding another
Somali over an open fire, allegedly "roasting" him until he
was severely burned. Two paratroopers were arrested last week
and charged with assault and battery in the incident.
Members of Belgium's elite paratrooper unit served in the
United Nation's "Operation Restore Hope" mission in Somalia
in 1993. Two years ago, 15 paratroopers were put on trial
for other abuses during the U.N. mission, including torture,
killings and the mock-execution of children. Most were
But the photographs, which came to light in the last two
weeks after two former paratroopers came forward anonymously,
bolster accusations that Belgian soldiers tortured and killed
civilians during the mission.
The Belgian military promised that anyone found guilty of
human rights abuses will be punished.
"First and for all, the Belgian army authorities never
tolerate violations of humanitarian rights, martial law or
penal laws. Those who are violating these rules are sent to
military courts," said Col. Gilbert Hertoghe of Belgium.
Military auditor Gen. Jean-Yves Minne says many of the
paratroopers have been located, including those who held a
Somali child over a fire. "The persons which committed these
crimes have also been interrogated by magistrates and one of
them is placed under arrest. The second one is released
pending trial," he said.
Minne says the most serious action he's investigating
involved an alleged Somali thief who was reportedly forced
into a container and left in the hot sun until he died.
Canada has wrestled with similar cases of torture and
killings stemming from the U.N. mission, and in the end,
disbanded its elite airborne regiment, whose soldiers
committed the worst abuses.
"Shouldn't we go as far as the Canadians and just disband the
battalion?" Poncelet said in an interview with the Brussels
daily De Morgen.
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