Army Force Commander Files Objection Over Alleged Late Night Shooting at Poček

By , 12 Apr 2019, 16:30 PM News
Brigadier General Miha Škerbinc Brigadier General Miha Škerbinc

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STA, 12 April 2019 - Brigadier General Miha Škerbinc has filed an objection to his dismissal as the army's force commander over late night shooting at the Poček training area, the newspaper Večer reported on Friday. The soldiers' trade union, which represents Škerbinc, claims he acted lawfully and demands an apology from the defence minister.

Defence Minister Karl Erjavec dismissed Škerbinc last Friday at the proposal of the chief of the general staff, Major-General Alenka Ermenc.

He said one of the reasons for the dismissal was the incident at the Poček training area, when shooting with heavy weapons late at night upset the local community at the end of March.

Erjavec said his instruction not to conduct training using heavy weapons after 11 PM had been ignored in this case.

Since Škerbinc is not allowed to give statements, he is represented in the public by his lawyer and the Trade Union of Slovenian Soldiers led by Gvido Novak.

"Brigadier Miha Škerbinc has no possibility to defend himself either from a public lynch or in any proceeding over alleged violations, which in my firm belief did not happen," Novak told Večer.

He is convinced that the dismissal of the army's force commander had been illegal, because "there were no professional grounds for his replacement."

Novak claims Škerbinc followed all the regulations and guidelines of the General Staff of the Slovenian Armed Forces during the late night training.

Novak believes Ermenc confirmed that there were no violations when she told the press that the shooting practice had been conducted in line with an agreement between the Defence Ministry and the Postojna municipality.

At the press conference she even quoted parts of the agreement, saying that except in the summer months, night shootings can be conducted up to ten days a month without any restrains to the duration of the shooting or the calibres used.

The trade union says on its web site that shooting at Poček is allowed at night time as well and that Škerbinc had received such instructions from the General Staff also in connection to the exercise conducted with US troops at the end of last month.

Škerbinc said in the objection to his dismissal that he had not received any instruction regarding shooting at Poček and the trade union thinks the minister cannot even give such instructions to the army's force commander.

According to Škerbinc both the government and ministry as well as the Postojna municipality had known that the shooting would take place at night as well.

The defence minister had also signed the plan for joint exercise with US troops, where all activities and the type of ammunition used had been specified, Škerbinc said.

The trade union published a part of this document on its web site.

Škerbinc also responded to media speculation that a reason for his dismissal could be his spreading of rumours about Ermenc's health problems. He said that a probe by the Defence Ministry's intelligence agency had shown he had not been involved.

He said his statements had been taken out of context and misinterpreted.

Rumours about Ermenc's health problems started last month after she was absent from work for about two weeks. President Borut Pahor as the supreme commander of the Slovenian Armed Forces, and Erjavec denied speculation that she might be replaced.

Ermenc denied media reports that she was treated at the Ljubljana psychiatric hospital and is now suing the news portal Požareport, which first reported this, for libel.

She said she had been in home care between 9 and 21 March due to an illness.

The trade union also sent a letter to Prime Minister Marjan Šarec today, demanding an apology from Erjavec over his statement for Večer in reference to the Poček incident.

"If the army disobeyed orders ... Will they shoot at Postojna next?" Erjavec was quoted as saying by the paper.

Novak finds it inadmissible for the defence minster to poke fun of lawful actions of the army's force commander and thus making fun of all members of the Slovenian Armed Forces.

The trade union also informed President Borut Pahor as the supreme commander of the statement, demanding that he took a stance. It also demands an emergency session of the parliamentary Defence Committee.

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