German Soldiers Sentenced for Abusing Recruits | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 12.03.2008
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German Soldiers Sentenced for Abusing Recruits

Six German soldiers were found guilty on Wednesday of abusing recruits with kicks, punches and electric shocks. After the verdict, experts said they were mostly concerned about the victim's behavior after the incident.

One of the defendants makes gestures with his hands, the head is not visible

He'll think twice about touching subordinates in the future

A court in the western German town of Muenster ruled Wednesday, March 12, that the six men had abused 163 recruits during training sessions in the summer of 2004.

Five men were sentenced to suspended prison sentences of up to 22 months. The sixth defendant was ordered to pay a fine of 7,500 euros ($11,500). They had been charged with several crimes, including causing bodily harm, abuse and demeaning treatment.

The verdict concluded the lengthy trial, which had originally begun with 18 defendants. Three other men had already been given suspended prison sentence and fines at an earlier date. The charges against the other defendants were dropped.

A need for soul-searching

A sign reading Freiherr von Stein Kaserne in front of a guard booth in Germany's national colors with a soldier standing in front of it

Officials will have to rethink training practices across the armed forces

Military experts meanwhile cautioned that while the trial had ended, Germany's Bundeswehr still had work to do.

Bernhard Gertz, the head of the Federal Armed Forces Association, which represents soldiers, said that disciplinary investigations into the case now had to find out if supervisors had violated their duties by not respecting the dignity of other human beings.

"It's been a basic principle since the Bundeswehr's inception that supervisors cannot touch their soldiers, let alone give them electric shocks, infuse water or do other things," Gertz said, according to AP news service.

Victims remain silent

Gertz added that this was the case even if some recruits had described simulated hostage takings as "highlights" of their military training.

Apparently, recruits had also been given a code word to stop the exercise at any time, but none made use of it as they feared that they would be seen as weak by their comrades.

Bundeswehr recruits

Recruits should stand up for their basic rights, Robbe said

Reinhold Robbe, the German parliament's Bundeswehr commissioner, meanwhile said he had been shocked by the behavior of recruits following the abuse.

In an interview with German public radio, Robbe said none of the victims had filed a complaint and that the abuse only became known by coincidence.

"That's what really made me think," Robbe said, adding that young recruits should remember that they didn't renounce their basic rights as citizens when they entered the army.

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