Canada to clean up armed forces

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The Independent Online
Doug Young, the Canadian Defence Minister, announced a major shake up of the administration of the country's armed forces yesterday in a move to improve the image of the military and to rebuild morale following embarrassing scandals which plagued peace-keeping operations in Somalia and Bosnia.

The torture and killing of a Somali teenager while in the custody of a Canadian army patrol and the shooting of two other Somali looters, one of whom died, while they were running away from a Canadian camp in March 1993 has severely damaged the Canadian reputation for peace-keeping operations.

That reputation was further damaged by the results of an investigation into the behaviour of Canadian soldiers guarding a mental hospital in Bakovici, Bosnia. The soldiers were accused of beating up patients, of careless use of weapons, excessive drinking and consensual sex with nurses and interpreters.

One of the major changes announced yesterday involved a complete restructuring of the military justice system and the creation of an investigation service which can operate outside the normal chain of command.

A royal commission of inquiry into the Somalia affair has pointed to extensive steps by senior military officers to downplay the murder of the teenager and attempts to block an investigation into the other shooting incident. The initial cover-up took place under the previous Conservative government but there were subsequent efforts under the current Liberal government to shred documents and prevent information from becoming public.

Mr Young, who was given the defence portfolio four months ago, said: "We will put in place a system of military justice that is transparent and ensures that all members of the forces ... will be dealt with in a fair and equitable manner."