Captain Semrau Goes to Trial

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by Joshua Foust on 9/20/2009 · 4 comments

Captain Robert Semrau, a Canadian member of an Operational Mentor and Liaison Team operating in Helmand province (see previous Registan.net coverage here, and here) who is facing murder charges for the alleged shooting death of an injured, unarmed insurgent outside Lashkar Gah, is now facing a general court martial.

Following referral to the Canadian Forces Director of Military Prosecutions (DMP), Captain (Navy) Holly MacDougall, the original charge of Second Degree Murder, and three additional charges were brought forward or “preferred” to Court Martial.

The charges facing Capt. Semrau are:

* Second Degree Murder – contrary to Section 130 of the National Defence Act, pursuant to Section 235(1) of the Criminal Code;

* Attempt to Commit Murder (alternative to the Charge of Second Degree Murder) – contrary to Section 130 of the National Defence Act, pursuant to Section 239(1)(a.1) of the Criminal Code;

* Behaving in a Disgraceful Manner – contrary to Section 93 of the National Defence Act; and

* Negligently Performing a Military Duty – contrary to Section 124 of the National Defence Act.

The charges have been forwarded to the Court Martial Administrator who will convene a General Court Martial at the first available date and at a location to be determined.

What’s interesting is, near I can tell, the basics of the incident remain unchanged: Capt. Semrau was in a firefight, they called in air support, and later happened upon the victim, mortally wounded, clutching a machine gun. Capt. Semrau was alone with the man some time later, and nearby soldiers heard two shots fired. They then found the insurgent dead.

Now, it is entirely possible Capt. Semrau actually killed the man outright. What baffles me is why this case, this one time an insurgent got murdered like this, is being prosecuted. Accidentally killing scores of innocent people results in no reprimands and paper changes to engagement rules; killing an insurgent after a firefight gets murder charges. I don’t get it.


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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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{ 4 comments }

Steve Connors September 20, 2009 at 12:54 pm

“Accidentally killing scores of innocent people results in no reprimands and paper changes to engagement rules; killing an insurgent after a firefight gets murder charges. I don’t get it.”

Maybe I’m misreading you somehow but, really?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hors_de_combat

MILNEWS.ca September 20, 2009 at 1:00 pm

While I take MSM accounts only in aggregate (and with a grain of salt at that), some accounts say the severely injured Taliban was disarmed (as mentioned in your 8 Jan 09 post), and the incident happened after the battle was over. IF that was the case, most Western militaries look harshly on killing a wounded combatant.

That said, I look forward to more details to see how this plays out. Good luck to Captain Semrau.

Joe Clark September 21, 2009 at 7:40 pm

kill them now and you wont have to kill them later , after he has killed your son or daughter . between my son and my nephews they have served six tours of combat duty in Iraq and now another is headed to afghanistan and i want them to come back alive what ever it takes that is the only rule of war . save our people not the enemy. look back at history there are people who have defeted afghanistan and Iraq it wasn’t with love and kisses it was with hard men just like captain semrau. he is a hero , they want a political war send a politician to fight i could accept 30.000 casualties then . no problem. hang in there capt.

Joe Clark September 21, 2009 at 7:55 pm

your absolutely right Steve connors kill em from 5000 feet sham on you , from three feet you get the chair. if they only knew how many gut shoot red chines my great uncle took mercy on and finished off in Korea they would shut up .

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