Haditha investigator recommends court-martial for Marines battalion commander

[JURIST] An investigating officer in the probe of 24 Iraqi civilian deaths [JURIST report] at Haditha [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive] in November 2005 has recommended that Lt. Col. Jeffrey R. Chessani [JURIST news archive], commander of 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines [official website], should face a court-martial for dereliction of duty and violation of a lawful order, according to a report obtained Wednesday by the Associated Press. The report faulted Chessani for his failure to visit the scene immediately after learning of the civilian deaths, and also his refusal to investigate the killings despite being ordered by regimental commanding officer Col. Stephen Davis. Chessani, the most senior officer to face an Article 32 hearing [JAG backgrounder] in the largest US military prosecution involving civilian deaths in Iraq, has testified that he did not order an immediate investigation of the incident himself because he "did not see any cause for alarm" [JURIST report] and believed the civilian casualties resulted from lawful combat. Chessani has also said that when he first learned of allegations that the civilians were killed intentionally, he thought that the claims were "baseless."

In June, a US Marine Corps staff sergeant testified that a superior officer ordered the deletion of photographic evidence [JURIST report] taken hours after the killings to keep it out of a report being prepared for top-ranking officers and a reporter. Four officers have been charged [list of charges] with dereliction of duty offenses and an additional three Marines have been charged with unpremeditated murder. AP has more.

 

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