Thursday 8 January 2009

Canada: Capt. Robert Semrau, released

Capt. Robert Semrau (35), charged with second-degree murder in the shooting death of an severely injured Taliban fighter in Afghanistan has been released into custody with seven conditions. He cannot possess weapons, ammunition or explosives, remain under military authority, stay in Canada, hand over his Canadian and military passports, continue to live where he resides, notify military of any address or phone changes within 48 hrs, and abstain from speaking with any witnesses. It was noted that he did not pose a threat to the public and would not flee and has an exemplary record with the Canadian Forces and the British army prior.

While questions immediately arose about the two-month-long delay between the date of the man’s death and the date the senior commanders learned of the allegations it seems fair to say that once informed they acted swiftly. Apparently this is not a long time for allegations to make their way up the chain of command.

Everyone has acted very quickly on this charge for fear of another hard lesson to be learnt as with the strain of Somalia. The customs of the Cdn Forces have changed and being open, transparent, very professional and dedicated to their jobs. They want to be known to do the right thing.

A Canadian soldier must be held to a very high standard, whether through Rules of Engagement, which require troops, use force lawfully or the Code of Conduct. An army is only as good and disciplined as its troops and officers and their collective willingness to play by the rules. They are controlled by a lawful government and nobody wants soldiers taking initiative as to how they apply force. This is what makes the violence they apply morally acceptable…sometimes.

The Canadian Forces biggest fear regarding these charges was it being another incident and accusations like in Somalia. A repeat of what happened in Somalia in 1993 in not in the best interests of the Cdn military, nobody want an ensuing cover-up that shook Canadians’ faith in the military ever again. On March 16, 1993, Shidan Arone, was tortured and beaten to death by two members of the now-disbanded Canadian Airborne Regiment, this remains the single greatest strain in the history of the Canadian Forces. It was two rank and file soldiers who were criminally charged. It appears that the young man’s death was really the result of an out-of-control culture by lax and unaccountable senior leaders who later tried to cover up the magnitude of what had happened after information was leaking out, a total disgrace to our military. Out of this horror the NIS was created an independent military police unit.

This is not the case with the charges against Captain Robert Semrau, who authorities were notified within 4 days after incident. A hearing will be set before a military judge to determine whether the evidence is sufficient to proceed to trial, innocent until proven guilty.
Capt. Robert Semrau

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