Details Emerge in the Semrau Case

by Joshua Foust on 1/8/2009 · 1 comment

New details are now available on the murder charges filed against Canadian Capt. Robert Semrau (see here). My original concern, that there is probably more “there” there, remains unresolved:

As a member of the Operational Mentor and Liaison Team, Semrau was responsible for guiding and mentoring the Afghan National Army.

He was in Helmand province when the incident occurred, as one of several military mentors there while a violent three-day defence of Lashkar Gah was carried out.

During the battle, a group of Afghan and Canadian soldiers were ambushed by Taliban in Helmand province.

Before the alleged shooting, the group had called in air support, which included a U.S. Apache helicopter, court heard.

After the chopper completed the air strike, the Canadian and Afghan soldiers found one dead insurgent and another who appeared to be severely-wounded.

The document said the wounded insurgent had a rifle, which was taken from him, and that it was determined his injuries were untreatable, the document said.

Witnesses quoted in the court document say that Semrau was seen near the injured insurgent before two shots were fired.

Prosecutor Trudel accused Semrau of firing both shots.

So that doesn’t really clear anything up at all, aside from the identity of the victim. The strangest thing is, the OMLT left the dead man’s body behind, which means there might not be any actual physical evidence linking Capt. Semrau to the alleged crime. But this was an insurgent, recently disarmed, apparently wounded beyond anyone’s ability to reasonably heal. Assuming Capt. Semrau fired those shots, that’s still a murky case—was the man dead before or after the shots? Was that death inevitable? Can they know for certain that those shots came from Capt. Semrau’s gun, specifically?

There is supposedly a statement by an unknown man who claims to have seem Capt. Semrau shoot the disarmed insurgent. It doesn’t look very good for Capt. Semrau, however—the Canadian government seems to have made up its mind that he must be prosecuted for murder even if there might not be any evidence.

Now, for the record, I am deliberately being skeptical of the charges. There is every possibility Capt. Semrau shot and killed an unarmed man. There is every possibility, too, it was a mercy killing, but that is a separate set of moral (but probably not legal) circumstances. The point is, we still don’t really know what happened.


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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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{ 1 comment }

araba January 8, 2009 at 3:39 pm

thanks you verry night every

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