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Returning US soldiers' alleged crimes due to combat stress: report

[JURIST] Crimes committed by US soldiers after returning from Iraq were caused by a lack of discipline combined with combat stress and substance abuse, according to a Colorado Springs Gazette report [text] released Friday. Ten infantry soldiers from a Fort Carson, Colorado military unit have been accused of murder, attempted murder, or manslaughter in the US since returning home from combat. These homicide charges and other crimes committed by Fort Carson soldiers have resulted in a sharp increase in military bookings at the El Paso County jail. The report alleges that, after being deployed to dangerous areas of Iraq, soldiers abandoned their training and were not properly disciplined for their actions. Some soldiers from the unit have reported the use of stun guns during raids, which is considered a war crime and is prohibited by the Geneva Conventions [materials], as well as the arbitrary killings of Iraqi civilians in what one called a "free-for-all." According to the report, emotional problems arising out of combat stress were ignored after some of the accused soldiers returned home. Although the Fort Carson soldiers were screened for post-traumatic stress disorder upon returning, many soldiers claimed that they lied about their experiences to "get it over with."

The news report follows the recent release of an Army report [text, PDF] on the Fort Carson homicides. The report found that stress, mental health issues, and substance abuse of returned soldiers were not properly addressed. The official report states that the accused soldiers were at risk for violent behavior due to several risk factors including a large number of deaths in their unit and extensive exposure to combat. However, the report concluded that the presence of such risk factors alone "[does] not entirely explain the clustering of crime" in the unit. In May, a UN report [text, PDF; JURIST report] found that the US failed to adequately prevent and prosecute war crimes and other disciplinary problems during its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The report pointed to "chronic and deplorable accountability failures" that resulted in alleged unlawful killings by US forces. The UN also found that senior officers were not held responsible for the actions of lower-ranking soldiers under the doctrine of command responsibility.

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