A Danish army captain is to be charged with dereliction of duty for having ordered a British Army helicopter attack against four Afghans without making sure that the group were Taleban fighters. At least one of the group died in the attack while the others were wounded.
It is the first time that a Danish soldier is to be charged with acting: “contrary to standing orders on the positive identification of the enemy”, the indictment from the Auditor General says.
The Auditor is calling for a prison sentence under military criminal law regulations on “particularly serious dereliction of duty during armed conflict”.
The captain is an officer of the Jutland Dragoons. His lawyer Torben Koch says that the case is ‘ridiculous’ and he will be calling for his client to be released when the case is handled by the Copenhagen Municipal Court later this year.
It was on October 23 that the company commander concerned became aware of four individuals, who according to his explanation to Torben Koch were in the process of carrying out subversive activities. The Afghans concerned were monitored for several minutes before the order was given.
“He did not doubt for a moment that this was the enemy. He cannot see any weapons, but wires and is sure that they are laying roadside bombs,” Koch explains.
According to the lawyer the company commander took advice both from his intelligence officer and a military attorney before giving the order to a British helicopter to fire. The helicopter loosed a Hellfire air-to-surface missile and fired at the four with a 30mm cannon.
Video coverage exists of the event with photographs and footage both from a helium balloon launched from the Danish camp and footage from the British helicopter.
“My client is not a gunhappy idiot. He conferred with an intelligence officer and an attorney, neither of whom stopped him. The Danish CO Helmand was also on the radio frequency and did not react to the order to shoot. So if my client is to be punished, these officers should be also. They had the same information as he did and could have stopped it,” Koch says.
The four Afghans were close to a route used by Danish soldiers. Afghans themselves removed the dead and wounded, which is why it remains uncertain whether more than one person was killed.
“But one person was killed on the spot. You can see that on the video,” Koch says.
He expects the military prosecutor to call for a closed door hearing, but the officer himself would prefer the court to be open to the public.
“My client would like to tell his version. He has nothing to hide,” Koch says.
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Edited by Julian Isherwood