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Thursday, July 21, 2005

It is certainly disturbing to hear that British troops are being put on trial for war crimes. But a closer look makes me wonder about whether the term of “war crime” here is really appropriate. Unfortunately I don’t have my standard referral work to hand, so I am not sure what the official definition of a ”war crime” is. Now I would have thought that a war crime would have to be a criminal action, undertaken by a soldier in wartime in following the rules of engagement and/or a direct order from someone further up the chain of command. As far as I can see this applies in this case. However, I am pretty sure that to qualify as a war crime, this criminal behaviour also has to be accepted and not be prosecuted by the state whose soldiers committed the crime. As the Army/MoD/Government is undertaking investigations and imposing punishments this criteria isn’t fulfilled. Surely this means these are simply crimes rather than “war crimes”?

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