A British Royal Marine was sentenced to a minimum of ten years in prison today after it was determined that he murdered a wounded Taliban prisoner in 2011. While the killing violates the war ethics code set forth in the Geneva Convention, hundreds of people have come out in support of the marine. They say the sentencing is far too harsh given the combat situation he was in and psychological distress he was likely under.
The Royal Marine of discussion is 39-year-old Sergeant Alexander Blackman. Blackman has served in six combat tours as a Royal Marine, including two in Afghanistan. He killed the wounded prisoner in September of 2011. During this deployment, 23 servicemen from his brigade died and Taliban fighters made a habit of hanging the limbs of deceased British soldiers on trees as trophies.
The killing took place after Blackman and fellow troops were called in to check for Taliban casualties after an air strike. Blackman found the wounded combatant lying on the ground with an AK-47 and a grenade. The combatant was immobilized by his injures.
Helmet-cam footage shows Blackman and two other Marines from his unit discussing what to do with the man. After some deliberating, they dragged him to the edge of the field and shot him. After shooting him, Blackman admits he’s broken the Geneva Convention and says “Obviously, this doesn’t go anywhere fellas.”
Two years later, the footage showing the pre-meditated nature of the shooting is coming back to haunt him. A court martial board of seven officials dishonorably discharged him from the Royal Marines and sentenced him to a minimum of ten years in prison.
“This was not an action taken in the heat of battle or immediately after you had been engaged in a firefight,” the judge said. “Nor were you under any immediate threat - the video footage shows that you were in complete control of yourself, standing around for several minutes and not apparently worried that you might be at risk of attack by other insurgents.
“You treated that Afghan man with contempt and murdered him in cold blood. By doing so you have betrayed your corps and all British service personnel who have served in Afghanistan, and you have tarnished their reputation. You have failed to demonstrate the self-discipline and restraint that is required of service personnel on operations, and which sets British troops apart from the enemy they fight.”
The judges said they considered both the physical and psychological stress of the situation when they made their ruling.
A representative speaking on Blackman’s behalf released a statement on the sentencing today:
“Sgt Blackman and his wife are devastated by the life sentence imposed upon him together with the order than he serve a minimum of 10 years before he is eligible for parole. Furthermore, he has been dismissed, with disgrace, from the Royal Marines, with whom he has served proudly for 15 years. He is very sorry for any damage caused to the Royal Marines. Finally, Sgt Blackman thanks the public for the support shown to him and his wife.”