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Germany

Military ombudsman cites leadership weaknesses in annual report

Military ombudsman Hellmut Königshaus has said the German army needs to make big changes in training and leadership, citing inappropriate behavior. The comments come as the military deals with a string of scandals.

Soldiers hands folded

The report said many soldiers lack proper discipline

The parliamentary ombudsman for the German military, the Bundeswehr, has said there are massive weaknesses in the military's leadership in an annual report released Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters in Berlin, Hellmut Königshaus said young rank-and-file service members and supervisors with little experience "sometimes lack the wisdom and intuition for seeing when boundaries of breach of duty and criminal offense are crossed."

The 70-page report said inappropriate behavior and disparaging remarks often go unrecognized and unpunished, citing a hazing scandal in the mountain infantry of the Bavarian town of Mittenwald uncovered in early 2010.

"This case on the one hand shows a lack of understanding among the soldiers involved that their actions were wrong," Königshaus wrote. "On the other hand it shows deficits in supervision."

To avoid similar cases in the future, the report calls for measure to improve troop conduct and to better prepare and make visible the officers responsible for discipline.

String of scandals

Hellmut Königshaus

Königshaus did not specifically address the Gorch Fock scandal

Königshaus' report comes after the revelation of a number of scandals in the Bundeswehr, including an alleged mutiny on board a training ship and claims of tampering with army mail.

A 25-year-old cadet on the Gorch Fock fell to her death from the rigging of the training ship last November. Her fellow trainees were reportedly reluctant to climb the riggings after her death, leading to what they said was mistreatment by their commanding officers.

Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has suspended the ship's commander and ordered the ship to return to port in Germany.

Königshaus told reporters that his 2010 report did not mention the Gorch Fock, but added that 80 former cadets on the ship have been interviewed since it was written.

Königshaus also brought to light what appeared to be the systematic opening of letters sent from German soldiers in Afghanistan to Germany. He said he became aware of the scandal after visiting troops, and that the letter opening was concentrated in Mazar-i-Sharif in the last three months.

The case of a soldier shot by a comrade in Afghanistan last December was also mentioned in the report, which Königshaus said was evidence of poor combat training.

Author: Andrew Bowen (AFP, dpa, dapd)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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