Tuesday, 17 December 2013
ROYAL PARDON FOR MARINE A?
I support the calls for Marine A to receive a Royal Pardon.
As I understand it the facts in this case came to light several years after the event when his comrade who had recorded the whole incident on a helmet video cam-recorder was being investigated for something else and the police looked through his computer and found that he had downloaded and kept the clip of the incident.
Marine A’s response to this seems to have been to lie about it and try to say that he thought the wounded Taliban was already dead. This dishonest response coupled with his comment at the time to his comrades that the incident should “go no further” and that he had breached the “Geneva Convention” showed that Marine A was well aware that he had not only disobeyed orders but also had broken the law. The question however does remain what is the appropriate punishment for this incident?
In my view British Forces should not be in Afghanistan anyway and certainly should not be there in the current political situation where we are in effect propping up a corrupt government and thereby facilitating a vast upsurge in opium production. The direction of travel in the Afghan government in any case is to become ever more Islamist and no doubt as soon as Western troops are removed the Taliban will take-over again. Probably the whole net outcome of the intervention in Afghanistan will be that the Afghan state is far worse than what was happening before so far as our Nation’s interests are concerned. The whole intervention has cost literally billions and the lives of hundreds of our soldiers and the health of thousands of badly wounded or battled traumatised men. The Taliban have been increasingly vicious to captured soldiers and I understand before this incident occurred, not only were the limbs of captured soldiers being displayed on trees, but also at least one had been skinned alive.
In the circumstances it is not surprising that our soldiers start to feel extremely unwilling to take prisoners.
The Geneva Convention does not in fact require soldiers to take prisoners, but once they have been taken then they have to be looked after, so there may have been a legitimate issue as to whether this individual had in fact been taken prisoner. I don’t know whether this was properly argued before the Court Martial.
In any case, even if we assume that he had been taken prisoner and it was a deliberate act of murder, the fact is that the British State has put Marine A into this situation means that it owes him a duty to not treat him like any other ordinary criminal. In particular, not to put him into the civilian prison environment where he is bound to be endangered by the hundreds of Islamist gangs that now infest our prisons.
On this point it is worth noting that when “Tommy Robinson” was sent to prison he had to be kept in solitary confinement in order to protect him from these Islamist gangs! Is the British Political and Establishment really saying that Marine A should be kept in solitary confinement for 10 years for this offence?
It is however the case that Marine A has disobeyed orders and in a military context having soldiers disobey orders and try to cover up their disobedience does require some disciplinary reaction. I would have thought in this case being dismissed from the service with disgrace was sufficient acknowledgement of Marine A’s wrongdoing.
It should also be borne in mind that probably the relevant Taliban individual had been sufficiently badly wounded that he was in fact going to die anyway.
It is also difficult to see what the point of spending considerable expense and medical resources on the Taliban individual would be when even if it was possible to save him, as soon as he became healthy again he would revert to being a serious risk to our soldiers!
As Winston Churchill makes clear in his first book ‘The Malakand Field Force’, he himself and the British Army in the North West Frontier generally did not take prisoners. When they had tried to take prisoners, the then equivalent of the Taliban suicide bombers, the Ghazis would try to kill them! It therefore appears that Churchill and his comrades decided to shortcut the process and give the Ghazis the benefit of immediate martyrdom!
Had the prosecuting decision been mine, I would not have sought to convict Marine A of murder but now that he has been convicted of murder, the honourable way for the State to deal with the situation would be the very traditional one of a Royal Pardon. This would release Marine A from prison immediately but does leave him with a recognition of the fact that there has been a breach of military discipline. What the Government has said about this is no doubt deliberately deceptive. They claimed that:- "It would be inappropriate for the Government to intervene in this independent judicial process." A Royal Pardon is a perfectly proper and long standing way in which the English state has been able to keep legal decisions in tune with public opinion. This case is one where it could be used to correct an injustice.
What do you think?