Marine faces life term after being found guilty of ‘executing’ Afghan insurgent

Royal Marine sergeant killed injured Afghan prisoner in cold blood, court martial finds, while two other defendants are cleared

An experienced marine sergeant faces a life sentence after a court martial found him guilty of the cold-blooded battlefield “execution” of a helpless, badly wounded Afghan prisoner – the first time in a generation that a member of the armed forces has been convicted of murder.

But despite the conviction the officer continues to be afforded anonymity and for the moment can only be identified as Marine A. He will have to be protected during his time in a civilian jail from possible attacks by fellow prisoners who it is feared might seek revenge for the killing.

Two more junior soldiers, Marines B and C, who were on the same patrol, were acquitted of murdering the captive insurgent and were ordered to return to their unit. The brutal incident had been captured on the head camera of Marine B, but the court has refused to release the film for fear of encouraging reprisals. Only the audio of the murder and a transcript of the video was made publicly available.

In the graphic footage, Marine A leans over and fires into the chest of the bloodied and moaning insurgent with a pistol. He then tells him: “There you are, shuffle off this mortal coil, you cunt. It’s nothing you wouldn’t do to us.” A few moments later Marine A is picked up telling colleagues: “Obviously this doesn’t go anywhere fellas. I’ve just broken the Geneva convention.”

Colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander of British troops in Helmand, said the incident would make life more dangerous for troops. “This murder is a grotesque violation of British forces’ longstanding reputation for morality and humanity even in the most desperate battlefield conditions,” he said. “Execution of prisoners of war is a crime we associate with Nazi stormtroopers, not Royal Marines.”

On the film seen only by the court, the insurgent was dragged roughly from a field after he had been injured in an air strike from a British helicopter. Members of the eight-man patrol are heard abusing and laughing at him. Marine C twice suggests shooting him before the man found guilty of murder does so.

General Sir Mike Jackson, a former head of the army, said: “Whoever we are, we are subject to the law. The due process of law has taken place.” But he said it was worth bearing in mind that of the 100,000 troops who had served abroad in the last decade, Marine A was the only one who had committed murder. “A sense of perspective is called for,” he added.

As well as putting the marines under the microscope, the court martial at Bulford in Wiltshire has focused attention on the principle of open justice. The three marines were granted anonymity by the court during the trial because of fears their lives be in danger if their identities were known. At all times they were hidden from the …read more    

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