(WASHINGTON) — Two U.S. Marines have become the first to be criminally charged for allegedly urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters on camera.
Staff Sergeants Joseph W. Chamblin and Edward W. Deptola are allegedly two of the four Marines shown in a video made in July 2011 in southern Afghanistan in which the men urinate on the corpses of three Afghan men while chuckling, according to Marine Corps spokesperson Col. Sean Gibson. A voice can be overheard in the background of the video apparently addressing the killed fighters, saying, “Have a nice day, buddy.”
The two staff sergeants were officially charged with “posing for unofficial photographs with human casualties,” failing to properly prevent or report misconduct by junior Marines under their command, the indiscriminate firing of a grenade launcher and the indiscriminate firing of an enemy machine gun.
Three other Marines from the same unit previously received non-judicial punishments after pleading guilty in connection with the video. Punishments for those Marines included a reduction in rank, forfeiture of pay, and punitive letters for permanent placement in their personnel records.
In addition to the five Marines already facing punishments, a Marine Corps statement said “there are other pending cases related to this incident” and that further “disciplinary actions regarding other Marines will be announced at a later date.”
All of the Marines identified so far were assigned to Third Battalion, Second Marine Regiment at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, Commander General of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, referred both staff sergeants to a Special Court Martial. Referring their cases to a Special Court Martial skips the evidentiary hearings needed to proceed to a General Court Martial and also limits their potential punishments.
Gibson, a spokesman for Marine Corps Combat Development Command, said the maximum punishments available under a Special Court Martial is one year of confinement, a two-thirds forfeiture of pay for one year, a reduction in rank to Private and a bad conduct discharge.
The video was recorded during a counterinsurgency operation in Helmand Province on or about July 27, 2011, but it was not posted on the Internet until January 2012. As it spread on the Internet, it drew instant condemnation from top Pentagon officials who feared that it would lead to a backlash against American troops serving in Afghanistan.
Shortly after the video appeared online, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos initiated a criminal investigation to authenticate the video. He also commissioned a command investigation by a three-star general to determine what factors may have led to the recording of the video. Both investigations concluded in March.
Based on the information gleaned from the command investigation, Mills ordered a further inquiry completed in June that looked into possible misconduct by members of the unit involved in the incident beyond those depicted in the video.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Brian Stelter, CNN
Lindsay Isaac, CNN
Nate Eaton, EastIdahoNews.com
Sarah Anderson, Deseret News