The justice minister, Morten Bødskov (Socialdemokraterne), and the foreign minister, Villy Søvndal (Socialistisk Folkeparti), have presented the investigative commission that will look into Denmark’s war efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Michael B Elmer, the vice-president of the Danish maritime and commercial court, Sø- og handelsretten, will lead a committee that also features a legal expert from Aarhus University, Jørgen Albæk Jensen, and lawyer Jeppe Skadhauge. Furthermore, Bødskov will also be appointing an interviewer to carry out questioning.
Over the next five years, the commission has been charged with investigating whether Denmark has complied with all international conventions during the wars.
Additionally, the commission will specifically focus on five aspects:
- To what extent have the Danish forces detained people?
- How did the Danish forces treat the detainees?
- To what extent have the Danish forces handed over people to forces of another country?
- How much did the relevant Danish authorities know about the treatment of the detainees?
- To what extent did the Danish forces co-operate with forces from other nations when detaining people?
The current government, now led by parties Socialdemokraterne, Socialistisk Folkeparti and Radikale, all of which were against going to war in Iraq and Afghanistan, believe that the commission is essential.
“The government will set up a commission of inquiry to shed light on the background of the Danish decision to participate in the war in Iraq, as well as potential problems relating to Denmark’s observance of international conventions in connection with warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan,” the government said when first announcing the commission.
The commission proposal was initially presented in April 2012, but the relevance of the commission has come into focus in recent weeks after the surfacing of a video that conveys Danish soldiers passively watching Iraqi forces kick and punch prisoners during a joint operation in 2004.
But the lawyer representing the 11 Iraqi citizens currently suing the Defence Ministry for abuse, Christian Harlang, indicated that the Danish soldiers also verbally humiliated the detainees and in at least one case used physical violence.
“The truth must be revealed and unfortunately, the truth is that Danish soldiers, in some cases, have directly participated in the abuse,” Harlang told Ritzau news service.
Denmark joined the war in Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. The commission, which is expected to cost anywhere between five and 12 million kroner a year, is scheduled to reveal its findings sometime in 2017.