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News in English

MEMO: Army chief ordered figures changed

Parliament was misinformed 13 times about the number of Iraqi prisoners.

News in English

A 2007 confidential memorandum alleges that the then head of Army Operational Command (HOK) Major General Poul Kiærskou ordered erroneous information on the number of Iraqi prisoners taken by Danish soldiers to be given to Parliament.

The Defence Ministry has now raised a personnel investigation of Kiærskou, who is currently Denmark’s military representative at NATO, the third most senior officer of the Danish defence forces and has been mooted as a candidate for the post of Denmark’s next commander-in-chief.

The memorandum, the contents of which Politiken has had access to, shows that HOK was already aware in April 2007 that Danish soldiers had taken many more Iraqi prisoners than had been previously announced, and that the figure was 500.

But in a response to Parliament in August 2006, the number was set at 195 and in order not to bring defence credibility into doubt, the memorandum says that Kiærskou decided in April 2007 that Parliament should be given the number 198.

At the time, HOK had already drafted an answer in which the number 500 was included, but Kiærskou is alleged to have ordered changes to the draft.

Since then, on 13 occasions, former defence ministers Søren Gade (Lib) and Gitte Lillelund Bech (Lib) referred to the 2007 figures in answers to Parliament, without correcting the figures.

Kiærskou’s alleged decision to provide wrong information is said to have caused frustration at HOK and resulted in an employee writing a two-page memorandum on the issue which was filed along with other documents on the issue.

The unnamed and undated memo was found at HOK headquarters in May 2011, when a special Defence Ministry task force was investigating how many prisoners were actually taken by Danish soldiers.

The memo was given to then Commander-in-Chief Knud Bartels, who asked the Judge Advocate to determine whether a crime had been committed. The Judge Advocate determined that the case was probably serious, but came under the criminal Statute of Limitations.

The case has not, however, lapsed as a military disciplinary case and the Defence Ministry has now opened a personnel investigation into Kiærskou and his second-in-command Lt. Col. Hens Henrik Møller, who the memorandum claims communicated Kiærskou’s order.

Kiærskou and Møller have both been asked for a report on the issue to be delivered by this Friday. Møller, who is currently Head of Institute at the Defence Academy, says he has already delivered his report. Kiærskou has not been available for comment.

Defence Minister Nick Hækkerup (SocDem) has declined to comment on the issue at hand.

“This is a personnel case, and I do not yet have all the details. But in general it is of course unacceptable for Parliament not to be given the right information. This is fundamental to Parliamentary decision-making,” Hækkerup says.

Former Defence Minister Gitte Lillelund Bech says there is no excuse for hiding mistakes.

“It is either a case of misunderstood loyalty towards the minister, or concerns about having made a mistake. But there is no excuse for hiding mistakes and it is worrying that information was withheld for four-and-a-half years. That is not the sort of culture that I expect from the defence forces,” Lillelund Bech says.

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Edited by Julian Isherwood

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