The Netherlands’ defense minister and top military commander have each resigned over the deaths last year of two Dutch soldiers in Mali.
In announcing her resignation, Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert told the lower house of Dutch parliament on Tuesday, “I am politically responsible and am taking that responsibility.”
She was expected to play a key role in Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government.
Hours later, Cmdr. Tom Middendorp, the Dutch military chief, submitted a five-page letter of resignation.
Hennis and Middendorp both came under pressure after the deaths of two Dutch soldiers — Kevin Roggeveld, 24, and Henry Hoving, 29 — in Mali, where they were part of a United Nations peacekeeping mission. They died and a third Dutch soldier was seriously injured when a mortar grenade exploded while still in its firing tube.
An investigation by the Dutch Safety Board revealed last week that the munitions were inadequately tested, that defects were not corrected and that they were transported and stored improperly.
The report last week concluded that the Defense Ministry is not willing to learn from prior errors.
Hennis, in her resignation speech, said, “Human action and inaction together formed the context for the tragic events in which two of our military personnel were killed and a third was seriously injured. That is intolerable. For this, I am politically responsible. And I accept that responsibility. Full responsibility.”
In his letter, Middendorp said, “Everyone knows that the work of military personnel can sometimes be highly dangerous. They risk being killed by enemy action. But it must never be the case that they are subjected to unnecessary risk due to a lack of proper equipment or a lack of training.”
The incident and report came after Sgt. Sander Klap, 35, was accidentally killed by a soldier under his training command at a Netherlands shooting range in 2015. An investigation showed that the range was unsafe and unsuitable for the purpose, and that that the shooter was inadequately trained.
Prior to those incidents, a Dutch helicopter crashed in Mali in 2015, killing two soldiers. The Safety Board released a report in 2013 critical of the safety of the Dutch Army’s Hercules transport planes.
By Ed Adamczyk