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Last Updated: Friday, 17 November 2006, 21:11 GMT
Dutch inquiry into Iraq 'abuses'
Henk Kamp, Dutch defence minister
Mr Kamp said all prisoners must be treated with 'great care'

The Dutch defence minister has ordered an independent inquiry to look into reports that Dutch troops tortured prisoners in Iraq in 2003.

Henk Kamp said the inquiry would look afresh at the facts and at an earlier military police inquiry that found nothing "reprehensible" had happened.

Dutch daily De Volkskrant claims Iraqi detainees were exposed to bright lights and soaked in water by Dutch troops.

The claims were made days before parliamentary elections.

The centre-right government has a slight lead in opinion polls.

Politicians from the opposition Labour Party have accused the government of hiding the truth.

"The smell of a cover-up is gradually getting very strong here," Labour leader Wouter Bos told the Associated Press news agency, pointing out that the claims have appeared in public three years after the abuses are said to have occurred.

New inquiry

Defence Minister Kamp said he was aware that Dutch troops had interrogated Iraqi prisoners but did not know of any abuses.

"I think prisoners should be treated with great care... That's the reason why I have decided to launch an independent enquiry," he said.

The minister said an earlier inquiry conducted by the military police had concluded "no reprehensible deeds took place".

According to the AFP news agency, the minister wanted the new inquiry to take a fresh look at the facts and "judge how all those implicated, including myself, acted with the information at our disposition".

'No prosecutions'

De Volkskrant said the abuses were carried out in Samawa south-east of Baghdad in November 2003 by members of the Dutch Military Intelligence and Security Service.

Prisoners were forced to wear darkened goggles, which were periodically removed to allow them to be exposed to bright light, the report said.

They were kept awake for long periods by being drenched with water and forced to listen to high-pitched sounds, it added.

The report said the incidents were reported to the military police, but there were no prosecutions and the matter was not made public.

Defence Ministry spokesman Joop Veen said, quoted by the newspaper: "Things did happen which are not part of the instructions."

The Netherlands had around 1,400 troops in the southern Muthanna province but most were withdrawn last year.

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