A coroner’s court in the UK has found that US armed forces were probably guilty of unlawful killing of a UK journalist and that the UK Government should be asked to extradite them and their commanding officer for trial in a British court for trial for murder and possibly for war crimes.
Should they be identified and extradited as requested?
I could only get at the second link, my major reaction was that the Iraqi with the minibus was a very brave and generous guy.
I’m afraid that if journalists venture into combat zones then they are taking major risks.
I also do not believe that soldiers should ever be tried for things they do while in combat, or acting under orders, by any civilian court. Their own military should handle it, otherwise troops will not know what to do.
Let lawyers loose on the military and they would need to bring in conscription.
No, I don’t believe so. The U.S. government would not view the United Kingdom as having any jurisdiction in the matter.
Courts-martial have universal jurisdiction over persons subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (Title 10 United States Code Chapter 47). The code itself makes reference to territorial applicability, saying it “applies in all places.”
However, there are exceptions to this. A person who is subject to the UCMJ can in fact be surrendered to civil authorities for trial for crimes committed under local statutes. This is commonly the case for crimes which are not specifically listed in the UCMJ, and sometimes happens in the case of crimes that are if it is felt the matter is better dealt with via the civilian courts.
In general however, the military has first jurisdiction to try these crimes. For example, for a charge of murder or manslaughter against Mr. Lloyd, that would fall under the jurisdiction of a general courts-martial and it would be inappropriate to extradite the accused to the United Kingdom when a legal remedy is available in the United States. Violations of the Law of Land Warfare (war crimes) are likewise under the jurisdiction of general courts-martial or international tribunals, as specified in the Army Field Manual, so it would probably be inappropriate to extradite someone to the United Kingdom for such a crime since they do not have jurisdiction.
The field manual states, “The jurisdiction of United States military tribunals in connection with war crimes is not limited to offenses committed against nationals of the United States but extends also to all offenses of this nature committed against nationals of allies and of cobelligerents and stateless persons.”
I’m unfamiliar with the specific case. However the proper procedure would be for an investigation conducted by the U.S. military. If sufficient evidence was not found in said investigation to bring charges against the soldiers involved, then I wouldn’t support any charges being filed against them (obviously) or any sort of extradition. It does not make sense to extradite someone you do not believe committed a crime.
The United States has specific obligations under the Geneva Convention. For example as a High Contracting Party it is required to establish legislation and courts to punish persons who commit war crimes. We have the option under the GC of transferring a person to another party of the treaty if said party has established a prima facie case, however we are not required to do so and do have the right to conduct the manner within our own court systems (particularly a general courts-martial for military personnel.)
If the UK felt that a war crime had been committed that the United States was not properly investigated or prosecuting then they can call for an enquiry under the GC, with the specifics of said enquiry to be mediated by an impartial third party.
However I believe a request would have to be made from a higher official in the government of the United Kingdom than a coroner. That is just speculation on my part, however. I find some of the statements of the coroner in the second article to be suspect. I do not believe that a coroner has any ability to discern the motivations of U.S. forces. I also do not believe, from the news article, there is any sufficient evidence to show me that U.S. forces were firing at what they clearly knew was a civilian vehicle. I would also question if it could be clearly proven that what happened was not just an accident, for which punishment would not be appropriate. And I would thirdly question the nature of the bullet wound to the back that Mr. Lloyd received from Iraqi forces, as it seems likely to me that such a wound could have in itself been fatal.
I also do not understand how a coroner could make the determination of “unlawful” killing, unless coroners are materially different than in the United States. In the United States they identify cause of death, so would have identified something like, “bullet wound to the head causing damage to brain, and etc” but would not have speculated as to the motivations involved in the actual shooting. But perhaps coroners are materially different in the UK than they are here.
Couldn’t get the first like to work here…might be the filter I’m using.
So, let me see if I have this straight. A reporter, not attached to the military and working independently, drives with his camera man and film crew into a war zone…a war zone comprised of Iraqi military soldiers who had NOT surrendered, and who were under attack by US forces. Seeing that the Iraqi’s were still under arms (after coming under fire appearently from said Iraqi’s), they attempted to drive away…and came under fire from the US. Being wounded, the reporter was picked up by by an Iraqi in the area, and that vehicle ALSO came under fire…and arriving at the hospital the man was found to be dead. Have I got it right?
Well…yeah. I have no doubt that during a battle, a vehicle driving about and picking folks up could indeed come under hostile fire. Leaving aside that this is an eye witness account by a man who was UNDER said fire, and that such accounts are unreliable at best, why is it a mystery that the Americans (and probably the Iraqi’s too) would take such a thing under fire? How would they KNOW that it wasn’t hostile…that it wasn’t filled with explosives, or with Fedayeen para-military types, or gods know what else? One would think that any rational non-combatants would be hiding in as deep a hole as they could…not near an Iraqi military formation during a war.
Based on this evidence I think the charge is complete bullshit (probably politically motivated as the folks doing this would have to know that the US wouldn’t extradite these soldiers, assuming we even know which ones took the thing under fire, even if the charge was legit). Even if it wasn’t, the US would try these soldiers under our own UCMJ…just like the Brits who may have committed war crimes wouldn’t be extradited to the US. And if some local pol trying to score some points here in the US DID ask for a Brit soldier to be tried here in the US, the Brits would rightfully tell us to go take a hike in the same way…though they would do it with a cool British accent and in probably a more polished and refined way.