Canadian military officer Captain Robert Semrau was sentenced Tuesday by a Canadian military judge for the killing of an unarmed Afghan insurgent, avoiding a possible five-year prison sentence. At his sentencing, the judge decided against prison time, but demoted Semrau [Montreal Gazette report] and ordered him to be discharged from the military within 30 days. Semrau was convicted on charges of disgraceful conduct [BBC report] under the National Defence Act [text] for shooting, with the intent to kill, an unarmed Afghan male in the Helmand province of Afghanistan in October 2008. Testimony during the trial established that the insurgent had been part of an attack on Semrau's unit and was near death at the time of the shooting. The incident was described as a mercy killing by witnesses, an action that the judge described as illegal under Canadian and international law [AFP report]. Semrau has 30 days to appeal the sentence.
In January, the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) [official backgrounder] charged Semrau with second-degree murder [JURIST report], of which he was acquitted in July. Semrau was stationed with the Operational Mentor and Liaison Team, which works with and trains the Afghan Army. The facts of the case raise questions concerning the timeliness of the charges. Human rights advocates have cited the delay between the alleged incident and the charges as a significant concern.