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Marine commander says staff failed to warn on potential illegality of Haditha killings

[JURIST] Maj. Gen. Richard A. Huck, commander of the US Second Marine Division in Iraq when 24 Iraqi civilians were killed at Haditha [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive] in November 2005, told a military panel Thursday that his staff failed to inform him of allegations that the civilians may have been killed in violation of the law of armed conflict, and that he thought the deaths were an unfortunate but unavoidable consequence of fighting with insurgents. Huck was testifying at the Article 32 hearing [JAG backgrounder] for Capt. Randy W. Stone, a Marine lawyer charged [list; press release] with violation of a lawful order and dereliction of duty in failing to properly investigate the incident. Stone's hearing continues for a fourth day [AP report] Friday. The New York Times has more.

The Haditha investigation has culminated in the largest US military prosecution involving civilian deaths during the war in Iraq. In addition to Stone, three other officers have been charged with similar dereliction of duty offenses and an additional three Marines have been charged with unpremeditated murder. Murder charges against Sgt. Sanick Dela Cruz were dropped [JURIST report] last month in exchange for his testimony against the other Marines involved. An official report on the incident by US Army Major General Eldon Bargewell found "serious misconduct" [JURIST report] on all levels of the US Marine Corps chain of command.

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