Court martial board out on Marines
A court martial board today retired to consider its verdicts against three Royal Marines accused of murdering an injured Afghan insurgent.
The commandos, known only as Marines A, B and C, are accused of the "execution" of the man in Helmand Province more than two years ago.
The marines have pleaded not guilty to murdering the unknown captured Afghan national on or about September 15 2011 contrary to Section 42 of the Armed Forces Act 2006.
Marine A is alleged to have shot the Afghan national in the chest at close range with a 9mm pistol before telling him: "There you are. Shuffle off this mortal coil you c***. It's nothing you wouldn't do to us."
He then allegedly turned to comrades and said: "Obviously this doesn't go anywhere fellas. I just broke the Geneva Convention."
The killing had been filmed by a camera mounted on the helmet of Marine B, prosecutors alleged during the two-week court martial at Bulford, Wiltshire.
Marines B and C are accused of being "party to the killing" and "encouraged and assisted" Marine A to commit the murder.
David Perry QC, prosecuting, told the court martial: "It was not a killing in the heat and exercise of any armed conflict. The prosecution case is that it amounted to an execution, a field execution.
"An execution of a man who was entitled to be treated with dignity and respect and entitled to be treated as any British serviceman or servicewoman would be entitled to be treated in a similar situation."
Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett told the seven-strong court martial board to "strive" to reach unanimous verdicts - but military law allowed for a simple majority.
"Each one of you has an equal voice when you decide on this case," the judge said.
"You must consider the evidence of the case, the arguments in the speeches of counsel, decisions of law and of course the views of the other members of the board.
"There may come a time when you use your vote. At that time the junior should always vote first, then the others in order of superiority.
"It is preferable you should come to the unanimous decision but in a court martial the law permits you to decide by a simple majority.
"I cannot emphasise to you how strongly you should strive to reach unanimous decision and you should strive hard to reach a unanimous verdict.
"If you get to the stage where you think you cannot reach a unanimous verdict you should try again.
"If after thorough discussion of the evidence you feel unable to reach a unanimous decision you should consider returning a simple majority decision."
The judge had told the board to consider the case against each defendant separately but said they should use their "experience of life and the armed services" when considering the verdicts.
"The prosecution has brought the case and the burden of proof is on them. The defendants do not have to prove anything," the judge told them.
"When considering the evidence you should consider it as a whole and decide what you accept and what you reject.
"Your task is to decide whether the prosecution has proved the offence as charged.
"When assessing the evidence use your common sense, use your experience of life in general and use your experience of the armed services."
Judge Blackett told the board that to convict of murder they had to be sure that there was an "intention to kill".
"The defendant's actions do not need to be the sole contributor to the cause of death but it must have contributed significantly to their death," he said.
"If the victim is dying and the defendant inflicts another wound that accelerates death that constitutes murder."
The judge said that for Marine A to be convicted of murder, the board had to be sure that when he fired the pistol the insurgent was alive, that the defendant knew he was alive, that he intended to kill him and the gunshot caused or accelerated his death.
The judge said that the case against Marines B and C was one of "secondary liability".
"The case against Marines B and C is they are secondary parties because they encouraged or assisted Marine A to kill the insurgent," the judge said.
"Are you sure they did or said any of the things the prosecution allege? The prosecution case is that Marines B and C provided encouragement and assistance."
The panel will resume its deliberations tomorrow after reaching no verdict today.