Page last updated at 09:19 GMT, Thursday, 5 June 2008 10:19 UK

US inquiries into Iraqi deaths

The US military has been conducting a number of investigations into incidents of alleged unlawful killings by US forces in Iraq.

The BBC summarises the most important elements of each case.


What was the accusation?

Three snipers were charged with the murder of three Iraqis and placing weapons beside their bodies, in three separate incidents between April and June 2007 in the Iskandariya area, south of Baghdad. Charges were brought after fellow soldiers raised the alarm.

Who was accused?

Staff Sergeant Michael A Hensley was accused of three counts of murder, obstruction of justice, and wrongfully placing evidence with the remains of a dead Iraqi.

Specialist Jorge G Sandoval faced murder charges relating to two of these and one placing items on the bodies.

Sergeant Evan Vela was initially charged with premeditated murder, but that was changed in the course of his court martial to unpremeditated murder.

All are from the Alaska-based 501 Infantry Regiment.

What did they say?

Speaking under immunity from prosecution in the trial of Sgt Vela, Sgt Hensley said he had ordered Sgt Vela to kill an Iraqi man to stop their secret unit being discovered on 11 May 2007.

Sgt Vela said that when he shot the man he was acutely sleep deprived, having slept for less than five hours in three days whilst out in hostile terrain.

He said he had lied about the incident afterwards partly because he had been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Specialist Sandoval admitted killing one man, who was cutting grass with a scythe, under orders of his staff sergeant in April 2007. His lawyers said he was present at the Sgt Vela incident in May, but was standing 100 yards away.

What's the status of the case?

Sgt Hensley was acquitted of murder in November 2007, but convicted of placing an AK-47 rifle with the remains of the Iraqi man who died during the May incident. He was sentenced to 135 days confinement, reduced in rank to sergeant and received a letter of reprimand.

Specialist Sandoval was found not guilty of murdering the man with the scythe, but was convicted of placing wire on his body. He was acquitted of murder in connection with Sgt Vela's case and of placing a weapon on the body.

Specialist Sandoval was sentenced to five months in prison, his rank was reduced to private and his pay was withheld.

Sgt Vela was found guilty of murder and placing a weapon on the victim and sentenced to 10 years in jail in February 2008. He was also found guilty of making a false official statement.


What is the accusation?

Eight marines were originally charged in connection with the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians in the town of Haditha, in Anbar province, north-west of Baghdad on 19 November 2005. Only two remain charged.

Haditha is the biggest US criminal case involving Iraqi civilian deaths to come out of the war so far.

Who has been accused?

Sgt Frank Wuterich - of the Third Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, based at Camp Pendleton - was one of four men initially accused of unpremeditated murder.

On 31 December 2007, it was announced he would face charges of manslaughter, aggravated assault and dereliction of duty, but murder charges were dismissed.

Charges against L/Cpl Stephen Tatum of involuntary manslaughter, reckless endangerment and aggravated assault were dropped in March 2008. Murder charges had already been dismissed.

In August 2007, murder charges against L/Cpl Justin Sharratt were dropped by military prosecutors because the allegations were not supported by independent evidence.

Charges against another murder suspect, Sgt Sanick Dela Cruz, were dropped in April 2007 in exchange for his testimony.

The Third Battalion's commander, Lt Col Jeffrey Chessani, is the only officer still to face court martial - on charges of dereliction of duty and failing to report and investigate the killings.

Lt Col Chessani is the most senior US serviceman since the Vietnam War to face a court martial for actions in combat.

Similar charges against Capt Randy Stone and Capt Lucas M McConnell have been dismissed.

First Lt Andrew Grayson, the first to face trial in the case, was acquitted in June 2008 of all charges. He had been accused of trying to help cover up the killings by making false statements.

What do they say?

Attorneys for the marines say the troops were responding to an insurgent attack after a roadside bomb killed one of their squad members.

What's the status of the case?

Five marines have had charges against them dismissed. One has been acquitted on all charges by a military jury and another two still face courts martial.


What was the accusation?

Eight servicemen were charged in connection with the death of a disabled man, Hashim Ibrahim Awad, on 26 April 2006 in the central Iraqi town of Hamdaniya.

The 52-year-old victim was taken from his house and shot, with a rifle and shovel left by his body to make it appear as if he were an insurgent planting a roadside bomb.

Who was accused?

Seven marines from Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment - including Sgt Lawrence Hutchins III, Cpl Trent D Thomas, Pte John Jodka, Cpl Tyler Jackson, Cpl Marshall L Magincalda, Cpl Robert Pennington, Cpl Jerry Shumate and one other - US Navy medic Petty Officer Melson J Bacos.

What did they say?

Four marines and the Navy corpsman pleaded guilty to various charges related to the death. Cpl Thomas pleaded guilty to unpremeditated murder in January 2007 but withdrew his plea in February.

Cpl Thomas was the first to come forward in the case, and said squad leader Sgt Hutchins had come up with the plan. The group went after Awad because they were "sick and tired of getting bombed", Cpl Thomas said.

What's the status of the case?

Sgt Hutchins was found guilty on 2 August of unpremeditated murder, conspiracy to murder, making a false statement and larceny. He was sentenced to 15 years jail and dishonourably discharged.

Cpl Magincalda, who pleaded not guilty, was cleared of murder but found guilty of conspiracy to murder and lesser charges.

He was released after serving 448 days in custody, and demoted to the rank of private.

Cpl Thomas was found guilty of kidnapping and conspiracy to murder but escaped a prison sentence. He was reduced in rank and dishonourably discharged.

Cpl Pennington was sentenced to eight years in prison in February 2007. A murder charge was dropped and his sentence reduced from 14 years in exchange for him agreeing to testify against Sgt Hutchins, Cpl Magincalda and Cpl Thomas.

He was released in August following a clemency decision.

Pte Jodka received an 18-month prison sentence for his part in the killings. He served his sentence, with time off for good behaviour.

Cpl Jackson was jailed for 21 months after pleading guilty to reduced charges. He was released after serving nine months following a clemency decision in August.

L Cpl Jerry Shumate was found guilty of aggravated assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice. He was demoted and sentenced to 21 months in prison. He was released early following a clemency decision in August.

Petty Officer Bacos was sentenced to 10 years, but served only a year in exchange for his testimony, with time off for good behaviour.


What was the accusation?

Four soldiers were charged with the murder of three male Iraqi prisoners near Tikrit, Salahuddin province, in northern Iraq on 9 May 2006.

Who was accused?

Pfc Corey R Clagett, Spc William Hunsaker, Spc Juston R Graber, and Staff Sgt Raymond Girouard - all members of the 101st Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade known as the Rakkasans.

What did they say?

Some of the four accused originally said the detainees were trying to escape when they were killed, but prosecutors said they were freed before being shot.

Lawyers for the defendants have also said that they were acting under orders to kill all men of military age.

What's the status of the case?

All four men were tried and either found guilty or pleaded guilty.

Pfc Clagett pleaded guilty to charges of murder, attempted murder, and conspiracy to commit murder and to obstruct justice on 25 January 2007 and was sentenced to 18 years of prison.

Spc Hunsaker had earlier pleaded guilty and received an identical sentence.

Spc Graber pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon and was sentenced to nine months in prison under a plea agreement.

Staff Sgt Girouard was found guilty of three counts of negligent homicide, among other counts, and could face up to nine years in prison.


What was the accusation?

Four soldiers and a former soldier were accused of carrying out the rape and killing of an Iraqi teen and the killing of her family in a village outside of Baghdad. The criminal investigation began on 24 June 2006.

Who was accused?

Sgt Paul E Cortez, Spc James P Barker, Pfc Jesse V Spielman and Pfc Bryan L Howard - all of the 2nd Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division - and Stephen Green, who was a private in their unit at the time but has since left the military.

What did they say?

Three of the soldiers pleaded guilty to their role in the incident, while Pfc Spielman pleaded guilty to lesser charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice, arson, wrongfully touching a corpse and drinking.

What's the status of the case?

Pfc Spielman was found guilty of rape, conspiracy to rape and four counts of murder and was sentenced to 110 years in prison - the longest sentence of the group.

Sgt Cortez pleaded guilty to four murders, rape and conspiracy to rape and was sentenced to 100 years in prison and was dishonourably discharged.

Spc Barker pleaded guilty to rape and murder and was sentenced to 90 years in military prison.

Pfc Howard pleaded guilty to pleaded guilty to being an accessory to rape and murder and was sentenced to five years in military prison.

Mr Green faces charges of rape and murder in civilian court at the US District Court in Kentucky.


In June 2006, a US inquiry cleared US forces of blame for the deaths of 11 civilians in Ishaqi, north-west of Baghdad, in March.

Reports that troops "executed" a family during a raid on a house there and tried to cover it up were "absolutely false", the US military said.

A report filed by Iraqi police accused US troops who were trying to capture insurgents of rounding up and deliberately shooting 11 people, including five children and four women, before blowing up the building.

Four bodies including that of an insurgent were found after the raid while up to nine "collateral deaths" resulted from the US raid, according to the investigation.

It added a precise death toll could not be determined because of collapsed walls and debris.

Leading figures in the Iraqi government were unhappy, and called a wider investigation.

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