Uncertain justice (or none) in Afghanistan, Iraq atrocities

The US Marine Corps announced it will not bring criminal charges against two officers in command of a unit involved in the shooting deaths of up to 19 civilians near Jalalabad, Afghanistan, last year after a car bomb struck the marines’ convoy. (NYT, May 24) The announcement comes as protests are breaking out in Afghanistan following reports that a US sniper used a Koran for target practice. Hundreds demonstrated May 26 in Balkh and Logar provinces, tearing apart an effigy of President Bush and chanting anti-US slogans. A Lithuanian soldier and two Afghan civilians were killed in protests against the incident last. (AP, May 26)

Meanwhile, a Marine is to face court martial over allegations that an unarmed Iraqi prisoner was shot dead during fighting in Fallujah in 2004. A statement released by the US Marine Corps from their California base at Camp Pendleton said Sgt. Jermaine Nelson will be tried later this year for charges of unpremeditated murder and dereliction of duty.

Another Marine sergeant from Nelson’s unit, Ryan Weemer, was charged with murder and dereliction of duty in March. A third soldier, José Nazario, is being tried in civilian courts in California on manslaughter charges in connection with the shooting deaths of two Iraqi prisoners. (AFP, May 14)

Spain’s National Court has dropped murder charges filed against three US soldiers over the death of a Spanish cameraman in 2003. José Couso of Spain’s Telecinco TV, was killed when a US tank fired at Baghdad’s Palestine Hotel, then used by foreign journalists. Another cameraman working for Reuters was also killed in the incident. The court said that there was “insufficient evidence” to continue with the trial.

Earlier, a lower Spanish court had issued arrest warrants for Sgt. Thomas Gibson, Cpt. Philip Wolford and Lt. Col. Philip De Camp of the US army for the death of Couso. When US officials ignored the two international warrants, saying that the firing was justified, Couso’s family brought charges. (RTT, May 13)

See our last posts on Iraq, Afghanistan, US atrocities and attacks on the press.

  1. Court martial in Haditha case
    From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

    CAMP PENDLETON – Court-martial started Wednesday at Camp Pendleton for a lieutenant accused of obstructing justice and making false statements after a squad of Marines killed 24 people in Haditha, Iraq.

    Jury selection is taking place in the trial for 1st Lt. Andrew Grayson, 27, who faces up to 25 years in prison and dismissal from the Marine Corps if he is convicted.

    Grayson was an intelligence officer with the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment at the time of the Haditha incident, which took place Nov. 19, 2005.

    A roadside bomb struck a convoy from the battalion that day, killing a Marine and injuring two others. Afterward, a squad led by Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich killed 24 men, women and children in the vicinity of the blast.

    Wuterich is slated to be court-martialed on charges such as voluntary manslaughter and making false official statements. Prosecutors said he and other Marines killed the Iraqis out of revenge, while the troops have maintained that they were engaged in combat and couldn’t avoid killing some civilians.

    See our last post on Haditha.