Army launches investigation into illegal party at Tielen Barracks

The Belgian Army has launched an internal investigation after an illegal party was held at a barracks in Tielen, in Antwerp Province. Mobile phone footage of the party that has been seen by journalists both at the commercial television channel VTM and here at VRT News show around 20 members of the 3rd Parachute Battalion drinking, singing and dancing in the company of a female stripper. 

The party took place on 4 May at a time when such gatherings were illegal under the coronavirus restrictions. The party is reported to have been a farewell party for a soldier that was leaving the army to join the police service. The soldiers’ superiors were not aware or the party, nor were the Belgian Army’s top brass.

The Belgian Army’s Adjunct Chief of Staff Marc Thys told journalists that "This is unacceptable behaviour that we were unaware of”. The army has started several investigations, one of which is into how the stripper was able to be smuggled into the barracks".

Mr Thys added that “This is unacceptable for three reasons. We were still in the middle of the corona period, there is the aspect of military security that is very important, and this is a breach of our norms and values on integrity and collegiality. This has meant that the actions of a few have created a very bad image of our organisation, while so many other are doing their best”.  

The Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder (Francophone socialist) has condemned the soldiers’ actions "This kind of thing doesn’t belong in the army, and it is damaging to the image of all the soldiers that carry out exemplary work both in Belgium and aboard in supporting the nation during the pandemic and in the aftermath of the flooding".

Three investigations have been opened: one into possible security breaches, one into breaches of COVID-19 social distancing rules and another into the consumption of alcohol at the workplace. Based on the results of the investigations appropriate disciplinary measures will be taken. 

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