Today has seen the first UK marine convicted of the murder of an Afghan since the war started in 2001. He has been identified as Sergeant Alexander Blackman. The two other marines who were on trial with him were acquitted and have not been named.
To protect the identities of the marines, should the judgment have come back “not guilty,” the three men were tried anonymously. Only those within the courtroom knew who they were and the full extent of the crimes committed. This was not a normal court case though, and was tried under the court martial board.
Blackman and his two colleagues were involved in a shooting in September 2011. The Afghan had been involved in a helicopter strike and had been seriously wounded. Blackman made the decision to shoot the marine instead of taking him for treatment. Due to his actions, he broke the Geneva Convention.
The Geneva Convention was set up in August 1949 and has since been signed by many countries around the world. One of those countries is the United Kingdom. It was designed to protect those who would no longer fight in a war, after the atrocities of the Second World War. The Afghan soldier should have been taken as a prisoner of war, and would have been treated for his injuries sustained during the strike.
Blackman explained his actions to the court. He was five months into a six month tour, and seven of his troops had already been killed during that time. He was not thinking clearly, and believed the soldier was already dead. It did not help his defense, however, and the UK marine was convicted of murder.
Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett, who was overseeing the case, told Blackman that he had contempt for the Afghan soldier. Instead of following the code, Blackman “murdered him in cold blood.”
The United Kingdom is stricter about enforcing the Geneva Convention after reports that enemy soldiers were being abused and tortured by the British forces in Iraq. Just one mistake in the field can undermine the whole operation, which Blackett feels has happened with this case. According to them, it is important to show that the British military is against these actions to deter others from acting in a similar fashion.
Blackman was caught on camera murdering the Afghan soldier at close range. The camera was a helmet-camera used by many soldiers and marines in the British military. Blackman even turned to the camera and said that the actions had to stay between the three men involved.
His punishment for murder is life imprisonment, with parole after 10 years. He is also being discharged dishonorably from the British military, which will affect his pension, rights, and benefits.
The war in Afghanistan continues. It started in 2001, when the United States and United Kingdom, along with other countries, entered to combat the growing threat of terrorism in the country. However, it has been 12 years and the country is still at war—not just with the foreign forces, but with itself. The United Kingdom is pulling out in 2014. The murder conviction of the UK marine is the first of its kind since the war started in 2001.
By Alexandria Ingham