6.12.06

The Few, The Proud: US Marines prepare charges in Haditha Iraqi civilian massacre

JURIST - Paper Chase: US Marines prepare charges in Haditha Iraqi civilian killings:

The US military is close to charging at least five US Marines in connection with the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha last November, a military spokesperson said late Tuesday. Though specific details have not yet been disclosed, some Marines may be charged with murder and others with the lesser charge of negligent homicide. The 24 deaths prompted two separate military investigations: one conducted by the Naval Criminal Investigation Service, aimed at determining whether to prosecute the soldiers involved, and an investigation into decisions made by Marine leadership led by US Army Major General Eldon Bargewell. An anonymous US official familiar with the NCIS investigation, speaking in May, suggested the Marines murdered in cold blood, and the probe concluded in August that evidence exists to support murder allegations. Bargewell's report has not yet been released, but officials briefed on the investigation said that there was evidence that soldiers concealed and destroyed evidence relating to the incident and were reluctant to hand over evidence.

Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani, the US Marine commander in charge of the Third Battalion, First Marine Regiment implicated in the Haditha incident, told the Washington Post in August that he did not order an immediate investigation into the deaths because he did not suspect any wrongdoing. Lt. Gen. James Mattis, the officer responsible for determining whether to charge the Marines involved, attracted press attention in 2005 when he told a panel discussion that 'It's fun to shoot people'

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