ARCHIVED - Statement by Lieutenant-General Michel Gauthier, Commander Canadian Expeditionary Force Command, convening authority for the Board of Inquiry into the death of Major Paeta Hess-Von Kruedener

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Statement / February 1, 2008 / Project number: CEFCOM / COMFEC S-07.002

OTTAWA - Lieutenant-General Michel Gauthier, Commander Canadian Expeditionary Force Command (CEFCOM) issued the following statement upon the release of the Board of Inquiry (BOI) findings on the death of Major Paeta Hess-Von Kruedener:

"I have carefully reviewed the Board's investigation into the circumstances that led to the death of Major Paeta Hess-Von Kruedener, who was serving as a United Nations Military Observer (UNMO) at Patrol Base Khiam in South Lebanon, and found it to be complete and well prepared. I fully support the findings and recommendations of the Board. The report clearly documents the sequence of events and the situational context in which this unfortunate event occurred. 

On 25 July 2006, Major Hess-Von Kruedener was on duty at Patrol Base Khiam where he was subjected to three waves of bombardment throughout the course of the day.  Reports of these attacks were passed to the Israeli Defence Forces by the UN, on the established liaison network, however the attacks did not cease.  With the situation showing no signs of improvement, urgent consultations between the Chief of Staff of the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), the Force Commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNFIL) and the Chief of the Observer Group Lebanon (OGL) led to a decision to evacuate the Patrol Base Khiam at 7 a.m. the next day. Plans were finalized  and details of the evacuation were transmitted to the Patrol Base at 7:25 p.m., but at  7:30 p.m., Patrol Base Khiam failed to respond to a scheduled radio check. A Recovery Team was dispatched, arriving at Patrol Base Khiam at 9:55 p.m. to find the the main building had been destroyed, entombing the remains of Major Hess-Von Kruedener and three other UNMOs. 

Taking into consideration all factors present at the time of the incident and the actions of all individuals, I fully support the Board's conclusion that no blame can be assigned to any one individual. The Israeli Defence Force has taken full responsibility for the operational and tactical errors which led to the bombing of PB Khiam, although without naming any individual as being personally culpable.  This tragic accident was immediately preceded by urgent discussions between Canadian and UN leadership at all levels resulting in the development of an evacuation plan, and it is very unfortunate that this incident happened prior to the enactment of that plan. 

The Board made several insightful recommendations for improvements in important aspects of Canadian and UN command and control procedures, and for the improvement in communications equipment provided to Canadian Observers. These recommendations have all been endorsed at my level and by the CDS, and their implementation will reduce the likelihood of a future reoccurrence of such an incident. Even with these improvements, however, the complexity and demands of UN missions are such that the risk cannot be reduced to zero.

I also acknowledge that the review process in this case has taken a significant period of time.  Although Boards of Inquiry are by nature very complex, they are even more so when there is an international aspect to the incident.  The significant period of time between the completion of the BOI and its release allows for diligent legal and other review requirements. 

Maj Hess-Von Kruedener carried out his duties with courage and honour, and he died in the service of Canada and the noble pursuit of a better and more peaceful world.  His exemplary service has been recognized in the posthumous award of the Meritorious Service Cross. He will not be forgotten.


Notes to Editors and News Directors:

Appropriate portions of the BOI final report have been severed out in accordance with Access to Information regulations to protect the operational security of the IDF and the UN. However the essence of the report remains and tells the story of what happened that night.

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