For Immediate Release: April 19, 2011
Washington, DC – Human Rights First is urging Secretary of the Army John McHugh to release a declassified copy of the investigation into command responsibility for the alleged murders of Afghan civilians by U.S. soldiers. The investigation examines incidents that allegedly happened in 2010, when American soldiers deployed to Afghanistan formed “kill teams” to murder innocent Afghan civilians. They collected “trophies” by cutting off a finger of the victim.
“Publishing the report will demonstrate that the U.S. Army takes these allegations seriously, that it has investigated all who bear culpability for the crimes by commission or omission, and that it has taken appropriate steps to hold all responsible individuals accountable,” wrote Human Rights First’s Dixon Osburn in a letter sent today to Secretary McHugh.
Osburn’s letter also noted that the Counterinsurgency Manual, section D-24, makes clear that “Commanders are also responsible if they have actual knowledge, or should have knowledge, through reports received or through other means, that troops or other persons subject to their control are about to commit or have committed a crime, and they fail to take the necessary and reasonable steps to ensure compliance with the law or to punish violators.”
According to a recent special report in Rolling Stone Magazine, a faction of soldiers in the 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company planned and executed the murders of unarmed farmers, old men, and a mentally disabled civilian for pure sport. They tried hiding their tracks by placing illegally procured weapons next to the corpses to make it appear that the civilians had been engaged in combat. The soldiers pressured fellow soldiers to keep quiet, even assaulting one soldier who broke confidence. They allegedly hid evidence from their commanders.
The Army has conducted an investigation, and initiated courts-martial for the 12 soldiers charged in the case. Five have been charged in connection with the murders, and seven for lesser crimes, such as smoking hashish and assaulting a fellow soldier. One pleaded guilty to murder and was recently sentenced to twenty-four years in prison. Even so, Human Rights First notes that crucial questions persist and the Army has a responsibility to make public its investigation into officer accountability and address whether it has held accountable any of the commanders in the 3rd platoon who knew about the abuse.
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