A Judge Advocate General for the Military Court Centre in Bulford [official websites] ruled [judgment, PDF] Wednesday that five UK Royal Marines charged with murder are to remain anonymous throughout their court martial. The five are charged with killing a wounded Taliban fighter, who appeared in a video [Telegraph report] that features marines debating whether to give the fighter medical care. Judge Blackett issued an interim anonymity order in late October that came under review at a hearing on Tuesday where the court determined whether the public release of the defendants' identities would put them at risk. Blackett ruled that the anonymity order will remain in place throughout the proceedings to protect the defendants from harm:
I am satisfied that, within the context of this case (including the unpredictability of terrorist attacks and the ongoing operations in Afghanistan) there would be a real and immeadiate risk to the lives of the Defendants were they to be identified by name. That risk is from Jihadist cells or extremists motivated to act alone either now or in the future and will increase significantly as the case progresses.The court will determine whether to keep the anonymity protection in place at the conclusion of the court martial.
The Service Prosecuting Authority [official website] charged [JURIST report] the five marines with murder last month. These charges are the latest in a series of incidents arising out of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. In February the US Army [official website] dropped all charges [JURIST report] against an army specialist charged with killing Afghan civilians. Last November a US military court convicted [JURIST report] an army sergeant of three counts of premeditated murder. In December 2010 a US soldier pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to shooting two unarmed Afghan farmers.