The Hawk missiles, bought by Romania from The Netherlands under a secret deal worth 23.5 million euros, caused so far hundreds of personnel severe health problems, like cancer, according to the complaints they filed.
The Hawk missiles stirred heated debates in The Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Greece and the United States of America.
Officials and military personnel in all these countries are on irreconcilable positions: the political decision-makers claim there are not enough proofs to substantiate the claims made by the military personnel - that their health was damaged by the radiation of Hawk missiles they handled.
In all states where such complaints had been filed investigations are protracted.
"There are too many coincidences. We started having such complaints since 1998, and our Belgian, German and Danish coleagues in EUROMIL (The European Trade Union of the Army Personnel) informed us they had similar cases to report," van den Burg said.
That year the Dutch union asked its members to report any health issues they had. Of the 126 army personnel responding, 61 had serious health issues, and by 2001 some 21 died with cancer.
"We also asked the deputy defense minister to take all necessary steps for a full investigation to be conducted in all NATO member states. In 2001 we got our answer: that there was no proof of any link between radiations emited by the Hawks and the cancer cases, and there was no risk to the health of personnel provided they took the necessary precautions," added van den Burg. But trade unions did not have their last say: too many personnel handling the Hawks had died of cancer, so the Dutch Union asked for an epidemiologic investigation.
At the beginning of 2005 the issue became public again, when the Dutch daily De Telegraaf printed the story of a soldier who had worked for the Hawks and had died of cancer. The parents were sure their son died because of the missiles, and the Dutch Parliament reopened its inquiry into the matter.
The Netherlands, however, got rid of the problem, because the Hawks had been dumped to Romania, in the mean time. " There were questions asked, if Romania was informed about the controversy in The Netherlands, regarding the missile system. The deputy defense minister stated his Romanian counterparts were dully informed," said van den Burg.
Currently 212 Dutch military personnel filed complaints; 73 of them have cancer and 48 have other serious health issues, while 91 people are afraid will have them in the future, because of handling the missiles.
Reiner Geulen, a German lawyer representing 700 former military personnel, filed a joint complaint against the German Government and the American maker asking for 75,000 to 500,000 euros in damages per case. Geulen claimed the German Government was attempting to hide proofs that were supporting his case, which showed that personnel installing, repairing and maintaining the missile system got sick.
Geulen was sure Germany was not a singular case, and that other NATO member states acted in a similar way. He also represents 20 Greek military personnel and 30 British soldiers having similar health issues. One of Geulenâs clients, suffering from lung cancer, expressed on a television show his discontentment for only five of the 1,436 complaints filed by German personnel were taken into account by the Ministry of Defense. However, the official view was that 25% of the deaths in Germany were due to cancer, hence a true connection between the handling of missiles and cancer illness was difficult to establish.
Still, following an article published late last year in the American specialized publication Mother Jones Magazine, the German Government paid damages of at least 71,000 dollars to each of 360 veterans. Of the 1,868 cases falling under the competence of the Ministry of Defense, some 300 people had died of leukemia or testicular cancer. An official of the ministry, asking for his identity to be concealed, stated to Reuter Health that all NATO member states were informed about the on-going investigation in Germany and that all answered back to not be aware of such problems in their respective countries. Denmark was the first country to officially recognize in 2002 the link between the missile system and the severe diseases caused to its handlers. It was the case of a Danish soldier who got throat cancer after working for 15 years on the maintenance of the Hawks in the Dutch Army. At first the administration did not recognize that his disease was work-related, but later on it did.
"It is a decision which should be taken into account by the international community, because these radar systems used for guiding the missiles are the same as those used in The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Civil suits were filed in all these countries, and important damages had been requested, therefore the ruling in Denmark set an important precedent," said at the time the EUROMIL expert on environment issues, Torben Hoegh.
Also at that time the Danish Ministry of Defense received a report from a German official investigation committee, which concluded that 400 to 1,000 German military personnel had probably got cancer because the radar systems were not secure enough.
While Gen. Maj. Ebbe Rosgaard, joint-chief of staff in the Danish Ministry of Defense, still claimed that "there should be no exaggeration on account of a few cases." In spite of the stories carried by Jurnalul National on the issue of Hawk missiles and their probable link to cancer cases, the Romanian Ministry of Defense did not react so far.
All information is concealed under the pretext that if falls under classified issues for security concerns.
Therefore we request the Romanian President to order the investigation of this contract, paid with millions of euros by the Romanian tax-payer.