Illegal charges brought against the Five Royal Marines? Lets examine the evidence…


So, over the last week or so of a general media blackout surrounding the subject, bits and bobs are starting to drip out about the case…

Now, whilst i am generally VERY wary of anything published in the media (i tend to refer to sources like the BBC, Reuters and believe it or not Al Jazeera, all of whom are very reputable broadcasters) lets examine what the media are saying, and the legality of the charges brought against the five Royal Marines.

The press have said that the arrests, and subsequent charges were made when a video of the patrol, was discovered by police on a laptop of a Royal Marine whilst investigating an unrelated incident. The video is of the patrol members discussing whether to administer first aid to the insurgent (who later died of his injuries) of who’s murder they are accused.

Firstly, to put these charges into context, lets look at the Geneva convention, and what it says about combatants.

The following categories of combatants qualify for prisoner-of-war status on capture:

  1. Members of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict
  2. Members of militias not under the command of the armed forces, with the following traits: Members of regular armed forces who profess allegiance to a government or an authority not recognized by the Detaining Power.
    • that of being commanded by a person responsible for his subordinates;
    • that of having a fixed distinctive sign recognizable at a distance;
    • that of carrying arms openly;
    • that of conducting their operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war.
  3. Inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces, without having had time to form themselves into regular armed units, provided they carry arms openly and respect the laws and customs of war.

There several types of combatants who do not qualify as privileged combatants:

  • Combatant who would otherwise be privileged, but have breached other laws or customs of war (for example by fighting under a white flag).
  • spies, mercenaries, child soldiers, and civilians who take a direct part in combat and do not fall into one of the categories listed in the previous section (for example “inhabitants of a non-occupied territory, who on the approach of the enemy spontaneously take up arms to resist the invading forces” would qualify as privileged combatants).

For countries which have signed the “Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts” (Protocol I), combatants who do not wear a distinguishing mark still qualify as prisoners of war if they carry arms openly during military engagements, and while visible to the enemy when they are deploying to conduct an attack against them.

As i understand it, Afghanistan has signed the 1949 conventions and were ratified in 1956, but have not signed any further protocols since, thus making them ineligible as current signatories, and therefore, not entitled to be treated under its articles as a signatory.

To the insurgent in question… Now… the key words here are PRIVILEGED COMBATANT. Was this insurgent a privileged combatant? was he wearing a a fixed symbol recognisable at a distance? If the answer to that is no, he was NOT a privileged combatant, and that being so, the patrol was not under any obligation to treat him under the rules of the Geneva convention.

Of course, we cannot be sure that he wasn’t, however, it is unusual (and i’ll stick my neck out as far as to say it NEVER happens) for insurgents to follow the rules of the Geneva convention, so we can fairly safely say he was wearing no uniform or recognisable insignia. Thus we can assume he was a “francs tireurs” and therefore exempt from privileged combatant status, meaning:

A.) He did not qualify for POW status UNLESS there was doubt over his eligibility (which as the patrol must have positively identified him and taken fire off him to have returned fire, then we can safely say he was ineligible)

B.) He did not qualify for first aid or medical treatment of any kind

C.) The patrol would have been quite within their rights under the Geneva convention and military law, to execute him on the spot.

So then, why are these Royal Marines being charged? Good question, can you ask me on on Rugby instead?

Even if, as some of the media have suggested, he was shot whilst surrendering, then, whilst it is a gross act of indecency, because of his exempted status, he was not eligible to protection under the Geneva convention. Whether he should have been afforded the courtesy, is a matter for personal interpretation and is an entirely different discussion which i will steer clear of in this post.

As the picture becomes clearer, and more information comes out, i am more and more convinced that the Royal Marines are being charged illegally. The act happened outside of the UK, so far from the jurisdiction of the UK Police force. It could be referred to the Afghan national police, but we have all seen how trustworthy they are over the last few years (i refer to the several incidents of Afghan Policemen shooting and killing British soldiers) and i doubt that even Cameron would let that happen to UK nationals. So then, we are left with 2 options, a Military courts martial or a war crimes trial in the Hague.

I’m glad (not actually glad its happening, but glad its not a war criminal trial if you get me) to say, that of the two, the former looks most likely. It has already been directly referred to the Service Prosecuting Authority, for the next stage of the process.

But these charges, cannot possibly be brought to bear, and i’ll tell you why i believe this to be so…

Under section 51(1) of the International Criminal Court Act 2001, genocide and crimes against humanity committed either in the United Kingdom or by United Kingdom nationals abroad can be prosecuted. BUT, as a dualist nation, other prosecutions can only be mounted where the United Kingdom has acceded to the Treaties and Conventions that create the offences including: war crimes, torture, and enslavement and forced labour offences.

But, as we have already established, these Royal Marines, acted within the accepted protocols of the Geneva convention, and therefore by its very definition, CANNOT be guilty of a war crime or crimes.

So then, there has to be another reason the MOD are pursuing this case so publicly and rigorously.

There is.

Its called “Trying to prove to the world the UK are not the monsters that they are perceived to be by stitching up some of its finest Soldiers…”

I for one, am NO Maggie Thatcher fan, i remember what she did to this country. But say what you will about her, she would not have put up with this scape-goat-ism and using the Military to take the fall. She would have had those Royal Marines out of prison and back in theatre in a matter of hours.

Mr. Cameron would do well to remember that.

Unfortunately, i have a feeling, we are going to see another Lee Clegg incident. Where the trial and appeals drag on for years before finally being cleared of all wrong doing.

This is NOT acceptable. Whilst military personnel are no more exempt from the law than anyone else, common sense must be used in the application of said laws during the course of their duty. If genuine war crimes occur, then by all means charge and punish the protagonists, but don’t use our brave service personnel as pawns in a political game to score points.

It is no surprise, that the government appear to be keeping a lid on things. 3 Commando Brigade, also appear to be towing the party line, having told the Royal Marines and their families to keep quiet on the subject, as one wife points out in this statement: “Hi … Sorry but not allowed to comment on your page… We as military families have been instructed not too… Freedom of speech???? Anyway we live on military base my hubby is bootneck and just wanted to say thanks for all the support, but again not allowed to do it publicly!!!”

Even the major broadcasters in the UK have been told to keep schtum as this quote underlines: “Hello, some of you have been asking why the press blackout? I can answer this, we have been contacted by the BBC and ITV and although we were willing to speak to them they contacted us back saying they had been told by a higher person not to talk to us and then wouldn’t say anything else. Hope this clears up that question!”

This all smells to me of a government desperate to keep things under wraps, and although they will give you the party line of “its so it doesn’t prejudice the case” i firmly believe it is to keep a low as profile as possible so as not to let out the facts proving these men are innocent.

These charges are ILLEGAL. Release the Five NOW.

Such an emotive subject has hit the nation hard and support groups have sprung up all over the internet. Protests have been organised both in Plymouth and at downing street and online petitions have been organised, such is the strength of feeling from the public.I urge you to sign the petition and pass it on to all of your friends so they may also do the same.

External Links:

Support The 7 Website 

Support The 7 Facebook

Free The 5 Facebook

Online Petition

London Protest

Plymouth Protest

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26 comments

  1. Unfortunately their arrests were very legal. Under sec 42 of the Armed Forces Act 2006 it says that any member of the armed forces can be tried for any offence committed abroad as if it were in the uk. Soldiers have to follow uk law when serving abroad and the Service Prosecuting Authorities have the power to enforce it under this act. So although they may be exempt from prosecution for war crimes they can still be tried under AFA2006

  2. You are correct, they can, but the point here was that the charges are baseless due to the Geneva Conventions protocols.

    1. Doesn’t matter. They would not rely on the protocols as the law used is the law of england and Wales. Murder under England and Wales does not require any of the protocols to be taken into account. Hopefully self defence will be enough. Dependant on what the video footage shows.

  3. form the little i have gathered, the video shows them discussing whether to administer aid or not, but cuts off before a decision is made or not. i find it hard to imagine that the video is sufficient evidence to prosecute as it doesn’t prove one or another if aid was administered or not, IE there is enough reasonable doubt.

    I think the fact there is no legal precedent for this will also swing in their favour, fingers crossed.

    1. Hopefully but I never believe what is in the news. I think you are right, that is not sufficient evident for arrest so there must be more to it. I suspect we will only find out after the trial / court martial.

  4. Under English law; “…A killing is not murder if the person killed is not “under the Queen’s peace”. The killing of an alien enemy in the heat of war, and in the actual exercise thereof, is not murder because the alien enemy is not under the Queen’s peace…”

  5. linking this form the media page on the website.

    1. Thank you, there are more blog on the subject at voiceinthecrowd.org

  6. Suzanne Gray · · Reply

    Weetam thank you for your efforts researching this info. Your posts I find are positive reading and I am glad that you have given your time in pursuing this. From mum of a Bootneck 3CDO 2011. X

    1. you are most welcome. pass on my best to royal when you speak to him next :)

  7. Tommy Cooper · · Reply

    Weetam, I echo Suzanne’s sentiments “cheers opps”. you are clearly a very clever man, so I would like to ask for an opinion please. Given that the guys are going to need all the help that they can get and that anything that might add to the reasonable doubt may assist, what would your view be on the following argument: The alleged conversation on video is in fact the group carrying out a dynamic risk assessment as to whether using their own FFD’s & medical resources (I am sure the insurgent was not carrying his own), would actually increase their own personal risk, by reducing the chance for survival of any such contact, given the high potential for further contacts & the historical evidence for the outcomes of such contacts (numbers killed & injured on that and previous tours).

    1. i would say that feel well within the acknowledged “personal safety” SOP’s ratified by NATO. It is accepted that an OC has general responsibility for the men he commands, and as such, in light of this, i would find it very hard to see how a jury would or even can convict.

      Also i believe that the conversation ended before any decision was reached, ergo no final outcome can be assumed from the video, making it all but worthless to the prosecution as a piece of evidence.

      Of course, i am only applying common sense here, as i have no legal training, and we all know the law does not necessarily follow the line of common sense, more is the pity

  8. PETERBAYLISS · · Reply

    why are we persecuting these heros when all they did was follow orders and do their job if this is the way we treat heros then all those who have died have died for nothing WAKE UP CAMMERON STOP THIS NONSENSE NOW BECAUSE THE PUBLIC WILL REMEMBER WHEN ELECTION TIME COMES UP MAXIMUM RESPECT FOR ALL OUR ARMED FORCES

  9. PETERBAYLISS · · Reply

    CAMMERON WAS BORN INTO WEALTH WE HAVE TO EARN IT HE HAS NEVER SERVED HIS COUNTRY IF THIS OFFENDS YOU THEN YO8 CAN ALWAYS WALK AWAY WITH YOUR HEAD LOWERED IN SHAME
    .

  10. PETERBAYLISS · · Reply

    RESPECT

  11. Matt Voss · · Reply

    As neither an acting serviceman or lawyer I am left very confused. My confusion is generally a product of a complete lack of common sense being applied within the judicial process.
    So, and in the most simplistic terms for which I apologise, (A)Bad Guy shoots at our boys, our oys shoot back and hit the target they were aiming at. Thats all fine so far. (B) Our, previously shot at, boys discover that target has not been killed outright and because they didn’t attempt to save him, whilst I assume they are still in an area that they can be shot at again, and he dies they are murderers? Is this pretty much the sum of it so far?

    1. yup, thats pretty much it, with the addition of they didn’t use their individual aid kits to treat him because of the risk to the patrols safety for the duration of that op

  12. […] silencing the Marines and their families. As i told you in yesterdays post (read yesterdays post here ) 3 commando brigade have issued instructions to Marines and their family to keep quiet on the […]

  13. Having served myself and still have a number of ex-Royal mates, I can safely and honestly say that 42 Commando Royal Marines morale will be at an all time low. Men will be completing their engagement and not signing on again, others will put an “I want out chit” in. If the fittest and finest of our armed forces have had enough, our many enemies have won. I feel for their families.

  14. Chris Hanmer · · Reply

    The Armed Forces have dragged their heels on to many issues – We have a legal system and laws which have been set up to protect people. It seems like the MOD pick a choose which ones they feel they need to apply to suit there own needs.

  15. […] silencing the Marines and their families. As i told you in yesterdays post (read yesterdays post here ) 3 commando brigade have issued instructions to Marines and their family to keep quiet on the […]

  16. James Edwards · · Reply

    A disgrace, serve and protect? Why don’t you just give these brave bootnecks blanks??? As clearly they aren’t allowed to follow the rules of engagement or sorry you are but you WILL be punished. Cameron your a f**king disgrace you go and fight or send your kids??

  17. Mrs Edwards · · Reply

    As just an ordinary citizen I find the instructions to media and military to say nothing deeply worrying. What don’t we know yet I wonder. My sympathies however are always with our soldiers, we can’t send people to risk their lives fighting, then have desk jockeys second guessing combat decisions. It is plain injustice before a trial even starts.

  18. The parts of the Geneva conventions being posted here really were meant to apply to wars between nation states. This is not an international conflict under the scope of the fourth Geneva convention it is a conflict contained within a single country, it is a civil war between the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgency, we are intervening on one side of this. Only Article 3 applies to this conflict.

    The sovereignty of the Afghan government is respected by the UK and international law through UN security council resolutions. What we have governing our troops in their country is a status of forces agreement agreed between NATO and the Afghan government. This lays out the rules under which our troops operate in their country, the obligations they have, the duties they must fulfill and also their immunity from local laws or prosecution.

  19. If you are right then I’m sure their lawyer will argue the same. One would hope that our forces would have more compassion towards another human being and offer the aid rather than leave them to die or execute them.

  20. If these men are being held for murder every U.K. taxpayer should be held for conspiracy to commit murder, after all we paid them to do it, they did it in our names

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