The chief of the British Armed Forces has said it would be “wrong” for the military to ask for any sort of exemption in the case of the Royal Marine convicted of murder.
Known only as Marine A because of an anonymity order protecting his identity, the man was found guilty this week of executing a severely wounded Afghan insurgent by shooting him in the chest.
Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show today, the Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nicholas Houghton said that “murder is murder, this is a heinous crime”. His comments were echoed by the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, speaking from Afghanistan, who said nobody he spoke to out there had called for clemency in the case.
Gen Houghton said: “No serviceman or woman of the British Armed Forces is above the law - not above the law of the country, international law or the law of armed conflict.
“This was a heinous crime. Judicial process has found this individual guilty. It would be quite wrong for the armed forces to adopt some special pleading, some sort of exemption.
“Those in authority over the armed forces should not request any form of leniency... we should be immaculate in these respects. Murder is murder, this is a heinous crime, thankfully it is an exceptional act in terms of the conduct of our armed forces.”
In an interview with the Sky News Murnaghan programme, Mr Hammond said it was clear the murder was against the values of both Britain and the armed forces.
He said: “I have not heard any such suggestions (for clemency) here. People here understand part of what makes us different from the insurgents and the terrorists that we are going after is we maintain a certain standard.
“These are standards that are core to our values as a society and core to the values of the British Armed Forces. This is an isolated incident, I believe, one individual who has let the side down.
“It is not indicative of the kind of behaviour that people in the British Armed Forces condone or expect to indulge in. I have heard no suggestion since I have been here there is any request for special treatment for anyone convicted of the crime of murder.”
The statements from the pair come in the wake of comments from one of Britain's most distinguished Royal Marines, the retired Maj Gen Thompson.
He said that while Marine A’s actions were “totally wrong” and “totally unforgivable”, it was important to understand the pressures faced by a battle-hardened soldier.
In the footage which was the main piece of evidence against the sergeant, he can be seen firing a bullet into an insurgent’s chest. He is heard saying: “There you are, shuffle off this mortal coil you c***. It’s nothing you wouldn’t have done to us. Obviously this don’t go anywhere fellas. I’ve just broken the Geneva Convention.”
“He certainly shouldn't serve any less than five years, maybe 10,” Maj Gen Thompson said.
“He should not be kicked out of the community as it were. I hope and I'm sure the Marines will support him and particularly his family through the years ahead,” he said.