British soldiers punished for abusing Afghan civilians

British soldiers in Afghanistan The soldiers were on a tour of duty in Afghanistan when the offences took place

One British soldier has been fined and another has had his rank reduced at a court martial after admitting abusing civilians in Afghanistan.

At the hearing in Germany, one soldier admitted pulling an Afghan boy's hand towards his crotch; the other admitted racially abusing an Afghan man.

Their patrol commander was cleared of failing to deal with the offences.

The three men have been granted anonymity amid fears naming them would endanger them and their families.

Judge Advocate Alan Large said it would be wrong to name the soldiers in light of the murder in Woolwich of Drummer Lee Rigby and concerns about the threat posed by "lone wolves".

The defendants, referred to as soldiers X, Y and Z, appeared in court at the British army barracks in Sennelager.

Mohammed Shafiq, of the Ramadhan Foundation, condemned the sentences as "not acceptable".

'Unacceptable'

Soldier X, a former private who left the army after his tour of duty in Helmand, admitted pulling an Afghan boy's hand towards his crotch while serving in Afghanistan in December 2011.

The court was shown video footage of the incident, which took place near a checkpoint, showing the former serviceman with a child surrounded by other soldiers and laughing as he repeated "touch my special place" several times.

Start Quote

You have been trained to act with decorum and you singularly failed to do that”

End Quote Judge Advocate Alan Large

He pleaded guilty to conduct to the prejudice of good order and service discipline and was fined £1,000. The judge advocate said there had been no sexual motive behind the behaviour.

The soldier also admitted insulting another Afghan child between 16 October 2011 and 6 January 2012.

A second piece of video footage shown in court, which the former soldier filmed himself, showed him being approached by an Afghan boy, smiling and offering to shake his hand.

Soldier X was heard swearing at the the boy before the child turned back in surprise.

The judge advocate said the soldier's behaviour had "clearly caused offence" and had been "unacceptable".

Soldier Y - a serving lance-corporal - admitted he was involved in having an Afghan man photographed with a racially-offensive sign, which read "Silly Paki", between 16 October 2011 and 6 January 2012.

'Particularly stupid'

The serviceman pleaded guilty to a racially aggravated offence likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress under the Crime and Disorder Act. He has had his rank reduced as punishment.

The judge advocate said soldier Y's behaviour had been "highly offensive and particularly stupid".

He said: "You have been trained to act with decorum and you singularly failed to do that."

Sentencing both men the judge advocate said the offences had taken place during a "demanding operational situation".

But he added: "All soldiers, particularly those serving in Afghanistan, are fully trained and fully prepared for all aspects of your duties."

He said both men had been briefed on the need to respect local customs and cultures and to avoid any behaviour that could be interpreted as having sexual or racist connotations as part of their training.

Meanwhile, their patrol commander, referred to as Soldier Z, was cleared of failing in his duty to deal with the offences.

The prosecutor said it would not be in the public interest or appropriate to proceed against him in the light of the guilty pleas from soldiers X and Y.

Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, which aims to promote better understanding between Muslims and non-Muslims, said he was alarmed and disgusted by the "minor" sentences given to the two men.

"To be fined £1,000 and demoted sends the message out that Afghan lives are worth less than Westerners," he said.

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