Morale: Scandals Afloat in the Dutch Navy


April16, 2006: Late in March, incidents of serious indiscipline aboard two of the Royal Netherlands Navy's ships came to public attention. The first incidents, reported by the Dutch Navy military trade union AFMP, on March 23rd, involved the frigate Tjerk Hiddes. A woman sailor reported that since she had come aboard the ship in January of 2004, there had been repeated incidents in which male sailors had molested women crewmembers, even entering women's quarters to engage in group assaults. The report was subsequently confirmed by several other crew members, both men and women, who said that drunkenness, cocaine use, and sexual abuse and rape of women was common, particularly while the ship was operating in the Arabian Sea, in late-2004 and early-2005.

Reportedly, despite repeated complaints, the ship's commanding officer dismissed the incidents as 'boys' pranks,' and pressured women to withdraw more formal protests. Women who persisted, were dismissed from the service. Tjerk Heddes apparently already had a reputation in the Dutch Navy, with widespread drug abuse having been documented during a tour on anti-drug patrol in the Caribbean.

On March 24th, another newspaper revealed that members of the crew of the supply ship Amsterdam had "re-enacted" scenes from photographs taken by abusive guards at the Abu Ghraib. The paper, the Amsterdam Telegraaf , published several pictures which showed naked sailors posing in various positions emulating pictures taken at the Iraqi prison in 2003.

The incidents have had sparked a major investigation by the Dutch Navy, which will apparently be headed by the head of the navy, who has cancelled long-scheduled foreign travel to take charge.

Meanwhile, the Tjerk Heddes has been sold to Chile.


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