Norway’s defense department has been having a miserable time of late. Now it also faces the biggest punitive fine ever issued against it, following a mine-clearing accident in 2017 that killed a 21-year-old soldier.
Hågen Skattum, a young sergeant from Voss, died instantly when 11 kilos of explosives blew up in his hands during a demonstration at the Skjold military camp in Troms. An investigation into the fatal accident by prosecutors in Troms og Finnmark has concluded that defense officials violated both Norwegian labour laws and the military’s own laws in connection wih the 21-year-old’s death.
State broadcaster NRK reported that police and prosecutors were clear in their assessment that the system failed, with unclear guidelines, deficient follow-up and control, and sheer haste involved. The demonstration of how to clear and disable land mines after a long week of training “should have been postponed, or carried out by more experienced personnel,” the county prosecutor concluded in issuing a fine of NOK 10 million (USD 1.2 million) against the military.
It was unclear whether the defense department would appeal. It’s faced a rash of problems in recent months, from the sinking of the frigate KNM Helge Insgstad, to charges of sexual harassment and rape within its troops to severe funding deficiences and pressure from NATO to boost its contribution to Europe’s collective defense.