In his investigation of the suspected crime against international law relating to an interrogation carried out by soldiers from another nation during Operation Artemis in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2003, Stefan Ryding-Berg’s main criticism is that the Swedish commander in the field did not submit a report to the Armed Forces Headquarters.
"As it was, the events were reported merely as a security incident in which a person broke into the camp, was interrogated and released later that evening, but nothing further was mentioned", says Stefan Ryding-Berg.
Personnel on international service can be exposed to unpleasant experiences and stress which in some cases can require therapy for several years. In the wake of each operation a so-called debriefing is held involving an interview with a psychologist as well as group discussion.
"If Headquarters had been given information about the alleged incident following such a debriefing, the Armed Forces would have been able to take action much earlier", says Stefan Ryding-Berg. Instead, rumours about what had happened only reached higher levels of the defence staff two years after the event. According to Stefan Ryding-Berg, however, it is not unusual for unconfirmed information about alleged irregularities to circulate in connection with overseas operations.
"After every operation of this type there are always rumours and stories. We cannot assume that these have any substance in reality unless the accounts are made more definite."
In this particular case, however, the Armed Forces could have acted more quickly, Stefan Ryding-Berg believes.
"The suspicions were so serious that we should have looked at them more closely, even though it was not at that time possible to institute a full investigation".
Following an appeal by the commander of the special forces unit, a report was received in May 2007 from a member of the Swedish contingent who had been in the Congo in 2003. Shortly thereafter the investigation that has now been completed was set in motion.
Many have been questioned
A large number of members of the special forces unit have been questioned during the course of the investigation.
"All those questioned have been very open about what they had experienced. My understanding is that we have by this means been able to put together a good picture of what the Swedish personnel believed to be going on. This provides a solid foundation for the report", says Stefan Ryding-Berg.
Some of those interviewed have differing impressions of what actually happened, adds Stefan Ryding-Berg.
"Evaluation of all these interviews points unambiguously in one definite direction. I have not, however, had access to the results of the investigation carried out by the other nation concerned. Discussions have only been held with Swedish officers and it has not been possible to find any pictorial or similar evidence. Experience gained from Operation Artemis now provides an important element of the training given to soldiers prior to deployment on an international mission."
"The main thing is to put a stop to any such incident and to report the matter to the commander concerned. The mistake this time was not reporting the incident to Stockholm as well."