Swedish Col. Hans Am, who has been serving in the European Force in Chad and the Central African Republic (EUFOR), has been relieved of his duties by his country’s military hierarchy for “withholding information”, an official source said on Wednesday.
Col. Am is accused by the Rwandan army “of (failing to disclose) information on the acts of torture committed on a Congolese militiaman by the French soldiers in the operation Artémis in July 2003 in Ituri, DR Congo.
A senior European official in Brussels said that the matter was closely monitored by the EU High Representative for the Common Foreign Security Policy, Javier Solana, who is the political official directly in charge of the EU military operations.
The Swedish Colonel has been sacked from his country’s army together with Vice-Admiral Jorgen Ericson, who was in charge of the Swedish contingent during the Artémis operation.
The European military mission, placed under the French command, was launched from April to July 2003 to secure the city of Bunia, which was then the scene of the inter-ethnic massacres.
The militias commanded by warlords were fighting over the control of gold mines in Ituri (eastern DR Congo) which is the world’s largest gold field.
The case broke out in Switzerland following the TV broadcast of a report showing a Congolese militiaman being dragged, by a chord tied to his neck, to the French-Swedish base in Chem-Chem, Bunia.
During extensive questioning, the French soldiers subjected the Congolese man to harsh punishments to force him to confess.
According to the testimonies of the Swedish soldiers, the Congolese prisoner’s scream could be heard throughout the Chem-Chem base during the interrogation.
The Swedish soldiers who witnessed the torture reportedly filed a report to the senior officer commanding the Artemis Swedish contingent, who in turn did not forward the information to his bosses.
Efforts are now being made to prevent such acts of human degradation and tortore during the EUFOR-Chad/CAR operation, which was deployed last 12 February in eastern Chad and in the CAR to assist a UN police mission on the ground and protect some 450,000 refugees from Sudan’s western Darfur region, as well as internally-displaced persons from Chad and Central Africa.
At full deployment 3 May, EUFOR is expected to comprise 700 soldiers from 16 European countries, with 2,100 from france.