Monday, July 19, 2010

Semrau Acquitted

Canadian Army captain Robert Semrau has been acquitted of murdering a mortally wounded insurgent in Afghanistan.

With the gaping holes in the evidence against the officer it was hard to concieve how anyone could claim the prosecution had proved every element of the offence. Eyewitness evidence was contradictory and inconsistent. No one actually saw Semrau shoot the man. There was no proof the mortally wounded man was even alive when the shots were heard. There was no medical evidence as to actual cause of death.

To convict Semrau the court itself would have had to supply the necessary evidence and that would have had to take the form of conjecture and assumptions. The panel of officers did, however, make those very assumptions in finding Semrau guilty of a lesser charge of "behaving in a disgraceful manner" based on shooting an unarmed captive. I think they got that one wrong but, then again, they're officers not trained judges.

8 comments:

double nickel said...

So he just shot off a couple of rounds for the hell of it?

The Mound of Sound said...

That's not the point. If our laws are to have any meaning or validity there must be uniform standards of evidence. Otherwise it's all caprice. Semrau wasn't charged with firing off a couple of rounds for the hell of it, now was he? No, he was accused of murder and, in that situation, it falls to the state to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt and that means the burden falls to the state to prove every material element of the offence.

Let's face it, he probably did shoot the old bugger and he did it to put this mortally wounded man out of his agony. I wouldn't want to be throwing stones on a call like this. Now if someone has a shred of evidence that Semrau was a sadistic bastard who just wanted to bore holes in a dying enemy for "the hell of it" I might see this differently. Only no one has offered that evidence.

double nickel said...

I don't think there is any doubt he did it. That's why they sawed it off at disreputable conduct, whatever that means. What exactly was the discreditable conduct?

The Mound of Sound said...

There's a total doubt that he did it - until it's proven and no one can begin to say otherwise. As for "disgraceful conduct" it sounds like typical armed forces' bullshit procedure that the uniformed civil servants always like to use to bash real combat types. My Vietnam war vet friends used to call these assholes REMFS -"rear echelon motherfuckers". Canada's military has never been short of their type either.

Anonymous said...

The actual wording of the conviction contained an explanation of what the disgraceful conduct was: shooting a wounded, unarmed unnamed person. Wounded means alive; one cannot be dead and be wounded. Has anyone thought that perhaps there was sufficient cause to find Semrau guilty of attempted murder, but that a conviction on the lesser offence was chosen instead?

The Mound of Sound said...

What I never heard was any evidence that (a) the insurgent was alive when the shots were heard, (b)that Semrau was seen to actually shoot the insurgent or that he admitted to having shot the man, (c) that bullet wounds consistent with Semrau having shot the mortally wounded man were seen on the body. There has to be some sort of evidence of these facts. Where was it? Did the court martial simply assume facts not in evidence? If so they made a reversible error.

Cases are either decided on clear, properly adduced evidence or they're decided on whim.

Anonymous said...

Actually, there was sufficient evidence that Capt Semrau shot the insurgent. The transcript of testimony will show that Capt Semrau admitted to shooting the man to Pte Fournier and the interpreter Max immediately after the shots were fired. The ANA Comd, Capt Shaffiqullah heard the shots, and was informed by the interpreter that the insurgent had been shot by the Cdn. Shaffiqullah demanded to know why Capt Semrau did this, and in his response, the Capt admitted to shooting the insurgent. A meeting of the entire 72A team was held shortly thereafter at which time the Capt again admitted to shooting the man. At the end of the day, prior entering a compound for the evening, another entire 72A team was held, with WO Longaphie, Cpl Haraszta and Pte Fournier in attendance, at which time the Capt admitted to the shooting. That night, the Capt had a one-on-one with Cpl Haraszta at which time he again admitted to the shooting. Much later, the Capt had a one-on-one with Pte Fournier, at which time he admitted to the shooting.

The interpreter testified that he saw Capt Semrau shoot the wounded man, and saw smoke from the rifle barrel. Pte Fournier said he spun around immediately after the first shot and saw the rifle barrel pointed at the insurgent’s chest immediately after hearing the second shot.

As for physical evidence, the location of the shooting was positively identified, and the pathway on which the insurgent had lain was searched with a metal detector. Two 5.56 casings were found, which the RCMP firearms expert Th√©riault matched to Capt Semrau’s rifle. Two 5.56 tracer rounds were also found near the casings; however, they could not be positively identified as having been fired from the Capt’s rifle, nor could they be excluded. There were no other rounds or casings located at the scene, except for a test shot fired by the MP conducting the search to determine how far a spent casing would land from a bullet fired into the dirt at an angle similar to that used by the Capt.

The Mound of Sound said...

Thanks for the information Anon. That clarifies a lot.