Military platoon disbanded after 'degrading and humiliating' hazing incidents

A platoon of the Fourth Engineer Battalion in Amay, in the province of Liège, has been formally disbanded because of degrading and humiliating acts that took place there, Belgian Defence minister Ludivine Dedonder announced on Thursday. The acts had allegedly been going on for months or even years.

In total, "several dozen soldiers" are said to have been involved - soldiers of all ranks, from officers down. Some have been temporarily suspended as a protective measure, while others have been transferred to other units. A criminal investigation is also under way.

The incidents allegedly involved hazing and integration rituals during training, while some took place off-duty and involved alcohol.

'Structural problem'

At a press conference on Thursday morning, Chief of Defence Michel Hofman spoke of a "structural problem" within the battalion. He spoke of "degrading and humiliating acts and behaviour, in some cases affecting physical integrity". "There has been a far-reaching blurring of standards which have no place in the organisation," he said.

"There has been a far-reaching blurring of standards which have no place in the organisation"

Dedonder called it "unacceptable behaviour" and said that a strong measure, such as disbanding the platoon, was in order.

Yves Huwart, president of the army union ACMP, said the abuses uncovered in Amay pointed to a wider problem. "This is not just a problem of the soldiers or middle management, but above all a problem of leadership within the defence and a problem of accountability," he said.

"A lot of things are tolerated that should not be tolerated, up to the proverbial drop that makes the bucket overflow. One unit has now been disbanded, but that will not solve anything structurally."


Defence minister Ludivine Dedonder and Chief of Defence Admiral Michel Hofman © BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND

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