A Court Martial in the United Kingdom has sentenced Sergeant Alexander Blackman, a member of the Royal Marines, to life imprisonment for murdering an enemy combatant in Afghanistan. It is said to be the first conviction of a British soldier for such a crime since the Second World War.
In imposing the sentence, Judge Advocate General Jeff Blackett said Blackman had shown contempt for the Taliban fighter, who had been severely wounded by a helicopter strike. Instead of providing him with medical assistance, he ‘murdered him in cold blood’. The entire episode was filmed by a helmet camera. Before delivering a fatal shot, Blackman said: ‘"Shuffle off this mortal coil, you cunt. It's nothing you wouldn't do to us.’ The unusual language comes from the famous ‘to be or not to be’ speech in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
During the proceedings, Blackman was known as ‘Marine A’, a measure that had been taken out of concern that he or his family might be targeted in revenge attacks. An application to maintain the anonymity of the conviction was rejected by a three-judge panel that said it would undermine the principle of open justice.
According to the account in The Guardian, ‘the judge general advocate said the court had to deal with him severely to show the international community that battlefield crimes by UK troops would not be tolerated’.
Reference does not seem to have been made to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. But a failure by British authorities to prosecute and punish Blackman adequately would have invited prosecution before the International Criminal Court. It has jurisdiction over the crime committed by Blackman because it took place in Afghanistan, which is a State Party to the Rome Statute, and it was perpetrated by a national of the United Kingdom, which is also a State Party to the Rome Statute.