Report of torture-like interrogation in Congo in 2003 now investigated

It is highly probable that a crime under international law was committed during Operation Artemis in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2003."Torture-like methods were used", says the Swedish Armed Forces' Director of Legal Staff, Stefan Ryding-Berg, who has investigated the incident.

No Swedish soldiers were involved. The interrogation was terminated only when the Swedish commander intervened. The EU led operation Artemis in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2003 was intended to secure the peace process in the region. The multinational force sent to the area was assigned the task of securing the airport and protecting the displaced persons in the town of Bunia. The force included special units from Sweden.

Crime against international law
On 31 May 2007 the Armed Forces Headquarters received a report relating to an incident which had taken place during Operation Artemis four years earlier. The notification concerned a breach of international law in connection with the interrogation of a person at a location where the Swedish force was encamped together with other EUFOR troops.

The Supreme Commander was informed of the report and decided that the incident should be investigated by the Swedish Armed Forces’ Director of Legal Staff, Stefan Ryding-Berg.

Interviews with officers
The investigation took place during the summer and autumn of 2007. In the absence of pictorial evidence, the investigation was based only on interviews with personnel from the Swedish force.

"Accounts of what had happened vary and some did not realise what had occurred. The incident was, however, confirmed by a sufficient number of individuals for me to conclude that the incident had involved the use of torture-like methods which constituted a crime under international law", says Stefan Ryding-Berg.

In December 2007 the classified report of the investigation was submitted to the Supreme Commander. The reason why the Swedish Armed Forces are now making a statement about the investigation is that all the Swedish units concerned are being informed of the outcome. The Armed Forces will now implement the measures recommended in the report. 

No Swedish personnel involved
No Swedish personnel were directly involved in the incident but Swedish officers have provided witness statements as to their understanding of what happened. The Swedish commander was informed of what was going on and reported this to the local multinational force commander. After a while the interrogation was terminated.

"The person who was the subject of the interrogation was later transported from the site through the good offices of the foreign units and was subsequently released", says Stefan Ryding-Berg.

The Swedish commander has stated that he assumed that the reporting and follow-up of the incident would be handled in accordance with the relevant EUFOR procedures.

"The report shows that the Swedish commander acted correctly in reporting the incident to his superior within EUFOR. On the other hand he should also have reported the incident back to Armed Forces Headquarters in Stockholm. Because this was not done, the attention of Armed Forces Headquarters was not drawn to what had happened in the correct way and those responsible for the operation therefore took no action", says Stefan Ryding-Berg.

The reason why nothing was done until four years latter is simply because no formal report was made directly following the incident. 

"Of course this matter should have been investigated sooner but investigations of events of this nature are not initiated on the basis of vague suspicions alone. It is unfortunate that it was not until 2007 that we received an actual report", says Stefan Ryding-Berg.

Criticism from the Supreme Commander
In view of the findings of the investigation, the Supreme Commander has called a meeting of the commanders concerned at which he criticised this failure to report the incident to Armed Forces Headquarters. The Supreme Commander has also decided that the report’s proposals and recommendations will be implemented. Among other things, that means that the conclusions will be incorporated in the training given to Swedish soldiers who are expected to take part in international crisis management operations.

In summer 2007 the Swedish Armed Forces informed the country concerned about the investigation being initiated in Sweden.
"We received the reply that they had not found any evidence to confirm the information contained in the original report that we received", says Stefan Ryding-Berg.

Since the conclusion of the investigation, the Swedish Armed Forces have been prepared to provide the nation concerned with information from the investigation report.