13 July 2007

Haditha Art. 32 Reports

The New York Times reported yesterday that the Marine lawyer conducting the Article 32 investigation into the murder charges against L/Cpl Justin L. Sharratt has recommended the charges be dismissed. L/Cpl Sharratt is accused of the murder of three Iraqi men. The Times asserts Lt Col Paul Ware's report states that the case against L/Cpl Sharratt was “'unsupported and incredible,' and that L/Cpl had killed the three men in a darkened bedroom of a home in response to a perceived threat in accord with the rules of engagement and use of force."

The charges stemmed from a 19 November 2005 incident in Haditha shortly after an IED killed a Marine as a convoy drove through the town. The Times reports that Lt Col Ware's report is quite critical of the prosecution for relying on "contradictory accounts from Haditha residents, inconclusive forensic analyses and sworn written statements by low-ranking enlisted men that were typed up, he said, by Naval Criminal Investigative Service agents who he contended routinely added phrases that bolstered prosecution arguments."

The Dayton Daily News is reporting that an Article 32 investigating officer has recommended that charges of dereliction of duty and violation of a lawful order against Lt Col Jeffrey Chessani be referred to court-martial. Lt Col Chessani was the commander of the battalion alleged to have been involved in the killing of 24 Iraqis in Haditha in November 2005. According to the News, Col Christopher Conlin, the Article 32 Investigating Officer, wrote that Lt Col Chessani "'failed to thoroughly and accurately report and investigate a combat engagement that clearly needed scrutiny.'"

Meanwhile, USA Today reports that another Article 32 Investigating Officer recommended that dereliction of duty charges against Marine lawyer Capt Randy W. Stone be dealt with administratively. Capt Stone, the staff legal officer, was charged with violating a lawful order and dereliction of duty for failing to ensure that allegations of violations of the war be promptly reported and thoroughly investigated.

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