Scene of the crime:
The Dutch holiday island of Ameland
ONE STENCH DRIVES OUT another, as prankster Till Eulenspiegel used to say, and if that was true in medieval Germany, it is even truer in the high tech, post-reunification Federal Republic. This summer the vicious news dribble of the Catholic sex abuse scandal soon gave way to the truly sadistic North Sea summer camp story. Since then, both have since been unseated by the horrific Love Parade disaster of Duisburg on July 24 (which I wrote about here).
But faster and gaudier news images do not actually drive earlier evils out of the world, they merely push their heads under water until they are forced back up for air. This is the case with the North Sea summer camp nightmare in early July, where at least eight teenage German boys vacationing on the Dutch island of Ameland were repeatedly sodomized by around a dozen older youths brandishing Coke bottles and broomsticks while their camp supervisors slept. (I already wrote a comprehensive account of the event here.)
The authorities in the kids’ hometown of Osnabrück will likely need the rest of August to finish interrogating the approximately forty witnesses in the dormitory. For now, public prosecutor Alexander Retemeyer is busy “preparing an overview from which we can discover who did what, when, and where.” So far, eight perpetrators and eight victims have made complete statements, and several of the attackers have made formal confessions. They face charges of “assault occasioning grievous bodily harm, rape, and severe sexual abuse.” The complete investigation may take another three months.
But then what? In comments to the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung, Retemeyer said he was looking at a variety of options, which could include prison sentences of between six months and ten years. But the case might never even go to trial. Instead, Retemeyer says that the boys could undergo “educational measures,” such as “dialogues between perpetrators and victims under the supervision of the youth welfare office,” a sentence to perform a certain amount of “public service,” or else a course in “anti-aggression training.” The rest, it seems, will be silence.
Now it’s hardly for the likes of me to second-guess the public prosecutor’s expertise in dealing with juvenile delinquents who assault their peers with broomsticks – even if there is evidence that they actually planned the whole thing in advance. And what’s the point in sending children to mingle with hardened criminals, where they are more than likely to receive the same medicine they administered to their victims? But it seems to me as an ex-teenager and now father that in the case of the North Sea dormitory rape club, Justice is not only blind, it is also – like the summer camp’s clueless supervisors – on vacation. It is the sort of absurd situation that Till Eulenspiegel would have appreciated all too well.
Patron saint of the absurd:
Medieval trickster Till Eulenspiegel