13 February 2011

Report from Day 16

Day 16 – 02 February 2011
Military Secrets

Hans Lodder, Captain of the Dutch frigate “Tromp”, who gave evidence on 26 January is back for cross examination.

First, the judge wants to know how much ammunition was used. Lodder is rather vague – yes, it's recorded somewhere but he doesn't know. “Probably one small box” is all he is willing to say. And another 2 boxes from the helicopter.

The defence asks about the detention of the Somali men. It turns out they were constantly chained to the deck, unless they went to the toilet. At night they slept on a mattress, still chained with one hand to the deck.

These questions relate to the fact that one of the detainees managed to jump over board and had to be captured. The defence wants to know whether that was before or after the interrogation. The judge intervenes at the word interrogation. It was after the 'voluntary interview', that he jumped over board. It is revealed that officer de Vind, who gave evidence the day before, took part in the interviews, although he wasn't part of the team.

Then it's on to the question of legitimisation of the whole intervention. Lodder had obtained permission from the Operational Centre of the Dutch Defence Ministry. He was not given instructions about what to do with the pirates.

Lawyer: “You had persons on board who were in shackles and were not free to move around – I assume that you knew under which statute you were detaining them”.

Lodder: “I am not an investigation officer, I don't know the law”.

Lawyer: “The Dutch prosecutor has written to the court on 04.11.2010 that the basis for the detention was the Dutch criminal law. Do you remember talking to the prosecutor about that?”

Lodder: “I don't recall that.”

Lawyer: “Were the persons on board asked whether they wanted to contact a lawyer or a representation of Somalia?”

Lodder: “I can't answer the question because I don't know who they were entitled to contact”
And on and on it goes about the minutes of the interviews, which Lodder says he never read and anyway he is no longer commander of the Tromp and therefore no longer has access to the files. Which raises the question for us: why was he relieved of the command immediately after the Tromp returned?

Then the defence wants to find out what exactly the mission of the Tromp and that of the German reconnaissance plane were  but the witness refuses to answer any questions relating to that, claiming  military confidentiality. All defence lawyers apply to the judge to have the question Lodder doesn't want to answer recorded in the minutes. The prosecutor objects and the judge sees no reason for it. The background to this is that if the case is appealed sometime in the future on this point, the appeal must be based on the exact questions. The defence argues that the witness defines himself what information is confidential and the criteria are obscure.

The court takes a break, during which the prosecutor has a private conversation with the witness. When the hearing resumes, the judge announces the court's decisions: The questions which Lodder didn't answer will not be recorded in the minutes. The application to obtain permission from the Dutch defence ministry for Lodder to give evidence is declined. Lodder will not be urged to answer the questions.