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UK marine sentenced to life for murder of Taliban prisoner

The Military Court Centre in Bulford [official website] on Friday sentenced a sergeant of the UK Royal Marines [official website] to life in prison for the murder of a Taliban insurgent that occurred during the sergeant's overseas deployment. Alexander Blackman, along with four other individuals, was charged with killing a wounded Taliban fighter, who appeared in a video that features marines debating whether to give the fighter medical care. The video then shows Blackman shooting the Afghan individual [BBC report] with a pistol. This decision occurred only one day after three judges of the Court Martial Appeal Court lifted the anonymity order [order, PDF] that had been protecting Blackman's identity until that point. Judge Advocate General [official website] Blackett stated in his sentencing remarks [text, PDF] that "if the British Armed Forces are not assiduous in complying with the laws of armed conflict and international humanitarian law they would become no better than the insurgents and terrorists they are fighting." Blackett also noted that, importantly, the murder of the Afghan individual was "not an action taken in the heat of battle" or when the team was under the threat of an immediate attack. Blackman is the first British military officer [Guardian report] to be convicted of murder occurring during an overseas deployment since at least World War II. The sentencing court stated that Blackman may be eligible for parole after serving a minimum of 10 years in prison.

Blackman's sentence comes after a long battle to remain anonymous throughout the court proceedings for the 2011 murder. The Service Prosecuting Authority [official website] initially charged [JURIST report] the five marines with murder in October 2012. A Judge Advocate General for the Military Court Centre in Bulford ruled [JURIST report] the following month that the five marines charged with murder could remain anonymous throughout their court martial. Thursday's order, which lifted Blackman's anonymity order, allowed those for the other four marines to remain in place, at least temporarily, while the court proceedings continue.

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