Friday, May 20, 2011

Court-Martial Charges for Australian Commandos Dismissed

An Australian military judge dismissed charges against two Australian commandos related to the death of six civilians. These Army Reserve soldiers were involved in a raid on a Taliban compound in Afghanistan in February 2009, during which six civilians were killed, including five children. They were soon charged with manslaughter.

The military judge, Brigadier Ian Westwood has said that, even though charges were dropped, this does not detract from the personal tragedy of the incident, nor should the decision diminish the importance of those killed, though many pro-defense groups have spoken out against this trial. The reservists’ case is now with the Director of Military Prosecutions, Brigadier Lyn McDade, who will decide whether to press on with different charges. The charges against the commanding officer, set to be tried after his subordinates, may be dismissed as well, in light of these events.

These two cases recognize that soldiers must be held accountable, as minimization of civilian casualties is especially important in a counterinsurgency campaign in which the civilian population must be secured from harm as much as possible. But the dismissal seems to acknowledge that such things do occur in war: civilians can be killed in the line of fire.

(Credit: Richard Weiland)