‘Not guilty’ - Macleans.ca

‘Not guilty’

Capt. Robert Semrau is cleared of second-degree murder charge, found guilty of disgraceful conduct


A military jury has found Capt. Robert Semrau not guilty of murdering a wounded Taliban fighter on the battlefields of Afghanistan. He has, however, been convicted of one count of disgraceful conduct. Numerous eyewitnesses testified that Semrau, a married father of two young daughters, fired a pair of bullets into the chest of a severely injured enemy fighter in Afghanistan in October 2008, telling his comrades later that it was a “mercy kill.” But with no dead body and no forensic evidence proving exactly how the man died, a military jury did not believe beyond a reasonable doubt that prosecutors proved their case. The court is expected to reconvene at 3:00 pm EST to discuss sentencing on the disgraceful conduct charge.

Source: macleans.ca

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‘Not guilty’

  1. Horses and other injured animals are put down to end suffering so why not humans as well? The only disgrace in that this hero had to stand trial because a bunch of morons who have no concept of suffering are expecting others to follow there own warped thinking.

    • Should this extend to soldiers on our side who are gravely injured by an IED? Don't think he'll make it, go ahead and shoot him?

      • Every situation must be evaluated based on it's own circumstances and soldiers who have seen battle learn quickly the likely outcome of a wounded person. With both legs blown off and the femoral arteries severed the person has maybe 5 minutes to live. If I were that person, I would hope my comrades would have the courage to put a bullet in me and stop my suffering.

  2. He should have been cleared of everything. He is a national hero not a criminal!

    • He did not follow established SOP for the situation. He was charged for that reason. That happens all the time when established protocols are not followed to the letter and a life is lost in the process.

  3. A proper and just decision for the most part. He should be completely cleared.

  4. As a veteran this must be a great relief to our young soldiers.The idiot remark from Cornie shows a gutless wretch who has never had a shot fired at him in anger.Has never felt fear either them or us.He should be confined to a mental institution for a dumb comment

  5. The fighter could have died in 5 minutes or 5 hours or 15 hours. Only the soldiers present dr-uring this event will ever know. Without this trial checking that evidence and witness statements, all our future soldiers will not have the confidence to know how their leadership will respond to the next event like this. Now they know for sure that they will feel the justice of the military courts should they let the fighter die on his wounds without treatment or put the fighter out of his misery. Pain is one thing that no one knows how much they can take, but it is the soldier who tries everything to safe a father, friend or enemy from death who truely feels like he did the right thing.

    Mercy killings are no longer valid in this day and age.

    Disgraceful conduct, yes.

    • I wonder if YOU would feel the same way if an enemy soldier just tried to kill YOU and your team.

      • Citizen, I've asked you before, but I'm still curious. What if an insurgent "mercy killed" Capt. Semrau? What would you be saying then?

        • If that did happen, I doubt it could be looked upon as a mercy killing, because in the mind of the enemy he would just be killing the enemy for the sake of killing him not helping him (based so far on all we have seen from the enemy and how they treat captured soldiers). That being said, had it happened, I would mourn his death the same as I do the death of other soldiers who have died so far in this war. If anything it would be better for him to be shot than captured by the enemy.

  6. Cornie..If you are not willing to stand behind our Soldiers, your more than welcome to stand in front of them !!

    • Yes, I also think that people who disagree with me should be shot.

      • Mr. Colbert, obviously you did not see what Cornie had written, I did and responded…The administrator did and deleted his post…and yet you comment on my post without knowing what had transpired..Now that is what i call a well thought out, intelligent comment.

        • I'm Not Mr. Colbert. And I indeed didn't see the post, but I assume (based on the fact that it was deleted, and on knowing what doesn't get deleted around here) that it was pretty bad. Bad enough to warrant getting shot.

          • Yes it was extremely bad, I apologize for my comment, I misunderstood which direction your comment was aimed…Sorry about that, I`m Not Mr. Colbert.

  7. Anyone have any information on the rationale for the verdict on the "behaved in a disgraceful manner" charge?

    If there was not enough evidence to convict on the second-degree charge, what evidence is there to support this one?

    • Jury trial, so we'll never know. But I echo your hope that the jury believed a set of facts which justified disgraceful conduct but not second degree murder, rather than "he did it, but it was just an Afghani, let's split the diff, eh?"

      • To answer the original question, I think because it is a known and agreed upon fact that he did shoot the guy. He is not found guilty of the larger crime of murder because they cannot prove he actually killed him, but they know he shot a downed enemy at point blank range. If he was already dead then the act was causing an indignity to the body. The rational becomes that a person should not be found not guilty of both possible charges (murder versus disgracful conduct) because you can't be sure which he did, even though you are sure he did one or the other. Instead, they found him guilty of the lesser charge because he at least did that. (Note: I'm not commenting on the rightness or wrongness of this morally, but legally this all makes perfect sense)

    • The CF has always had a catch all "chargeable offense" in its legal system. The old Queens Rules and Orders had the "conduct unbecoming" that was added for whatever charge or charges were laid against a Canadian serviceman. When speaking of disgraceful conduct, that too covers the serviceman and how he carries out his profession duties, 'disgraceful conduct in a professional respect', … As is well-known, in English, Canadian and Australian law there has ….. amounting to conduct unbecoming reflecting adversely on fitness to practice.

      The bottom line is the good captain has circumstantial evidence on the charge of murder (no body and forensics to prove one way or another), but the evidence of two spent casings and the two rounds that ballistics proved were fired from the good captain's weapon.

      The good captain did not follow established protocol for wounded enemy soldiers/insurgents, and neither did he act in accordance to Canadian and International laws (Canadian Criminal Code, and Geneva Conventions). So that is why the charge of disgraceful conduct applies and has up to five years prison that can be applied.

      I personally believe that the good captain will be discharged from the CF, with a dishonorable discharge and no prison time.

      No CF personnel has the right to play God and terminate the life of a wounded enemy soldier. He deserved the charges and regrettably it will end his career.

      A wrong, is a wrong, no matter what. It was immoral, illegal, and ethically bankrupt. As a former infantryman myself (8 years) and a Christian, I find reprehensible that he chose to take the man's life. He had no right. He can never justify this as a mercy killing, not as a soldier and certainly not as a Christian.

      • Yeah, I know the ole catch-all concept. But if the jury didn't find there was enough evidence to convict on 2nd-degree murder, how could there be enough evidence for the disgraceful conduct? Check our Christie Blatchford's article today for more about that: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/chri

        I don't doubt the legal situation.

        But I'm not as convinced as you seem to be about the moral one.

        With respect, do you really think your god determines what is moral or immoral based on *our* Geneva Conventions. They are only conventions after all. Powerful and useful though they are, they are essentially human short cuts to morality – and *not* morality itself. While in nearly every situation, the laws and conventions established by Canada or International Agreement are fairly synonymous with moral action, in some cases they fail to reflect situational ethics (or as a believer might think: the Absolute Right-and-Wrong of god). They are human institutions and subject to human limitations and flaws (humans are not omniscience). (I haven't heard anyone claim that the Geneva Conventions were divinely inspired).

        I'm assuming you do believe that it is moral in some circumstances to kill other humans since, as you say, you served as an infanteer for 8 years – so what is the criteria you think god would be using to judge this situation as immoral, but condone killing in combat?

  8. Anything worse than a suspended sentence is a travesty. He deserves a medal.

    • I wouldn't go quite that far, though I agree entirely with your first sentence.

      Personally, I feel that he should not have been found guilty of disgraceful conduct at all, and instead should have been found guilty of murder, with the sentence suspended.

      Basically a judgement of "You killed this guy, and it was against the rules, but it was the right thing to do, so no penalty"

      • And give liberals an argument against mandatory minimums? NEVER!!!

      • You bring up an excellent point. Right thing to do but against the rules. So the problem is the rules. The Geneva Convention came into effect when combatants wore uniforms and attacked other soldiers. The Taliban are worthless cowards who hide behind woman's skirts while planning ways to kill to kill innocent people. They are not soldiers they are terrorists who should be hunted down and interrogated with every means available and if someone thinks otherwise I would invite them to go live in Afghanistan and see first hand women and children killed by these disgusting bigots. Bleeding hearts need a good dose of reality.

  9. The poor brave S.O.B. Capt. was a victim of a self righteous purge by the Harper government. And why? Well Harper doesn't want to think he's hiding political crimes of war in his precious Afghan Detainee documents that he refuses to release. Look how above board we are with our military? Yeah? No news of drug dealing soldiers out of Alberta. Right? And never will hear anything about that. There are still two brave and dedicated CF Commanders that remain tarnished by Harper's sanctimonious attack on our military.

    • What do you mean "No news of drug dealing soldiers out of Alberta"?

      • Canadians soldiers out (presently enlisted and former) were running a drug lab off an Edmonton area base. Arrests were made. It made some news and then disappeared off the radar. Because that's the sort of influence Harper and MacKay have these days. It's like everything else with this government. Suppress whatever you want.

        • Alcan thanks you for your business, but I think the reason you aren't hearing of it is because it's not really newsworthy. Most drug busts aren't unless they're huge. The reason Capt. Semrau's was news is because the circumstances make it very controversial.

          • Thwim, kudos for the "Alcan thanks you for your business" comment. It took me a couple of seconds to get it, but I'm slow . . . nice one.

        • I know the story. But are you suggesting that Harper and MacKay can make certain news stories disappear off the radar? They wish.

          Politicians don't make decisions about pressing these types of charges, or removing those commanders from the field.

          I think it is clear why the media is more interested in the Semrau case than these drug charges. Besides, this isn't the first time that such charges have been filed. Unfortunately, it is almost routine (http://www.cbc.ca/canada/british-columbia/story/2007/08/13/bc-hmcscocaine.html).

          • Well, it's pretty tough to suppress a story when it's in court with a jury. But that's all you know, is what came out of the trial. But that's it. Before the trial, you couldn't get diddily oout of anybody for a story….and do you really believe that a few goons like Laurie Hawn, MacKay and Harper, can spend 16 billion bucks on jet fighters, without any explanation for what they did it they way they did so…and get away from it…you really believe that sort of unbridled power can't squash a few lousy news stories…even if it is about the drugs in the military….you don't understand the country you're living in these days and the ruthlessness of the power wielded by Harper and his servile minions.

          • I don't understand what you are writing.

            In most court cases we usually don't hear much of anything until the trial. What's different here? Why do you think that these cases about drugs deserves more media attention than it currently gets?

            And are you saying that the government *is* or *isn't* getting away with spending $16B on the JSF?

  10. Hey ya go from Canwest News…

    Nine current and three former soldiers from Canadian Forces Base Wainwright in Alberta have been charged with drug offences, authorities announced Wednesday, delivering the latest black eye to this country's military.

    Two of the soldiers are charged with making a “controlled substance,” which authorities have said was Dimethyltryptamine, a type of hallucinogenic drug, military authorities said in a news release.

    Those two soldiers have also been charged with multiple counts of drug-trafficking and possession.

    Read more: http://www.nationalpost.com/Twelve+current+former

    • And your point is . . . what?

      • That all soldiers are drug dealers. Sound argument, wouldn't you say?

  11. He is a soldier for crying out loud – he is trained to kill. If an enemy soldier's wounds would cause my mission to suffer or fail then adios amigo. Soldier-on Capt. Stay proud. Yup we have to follow the Geneva convention while the enemy can decimate our troops with nobody to answer to for their actions. What crap!!

    • Hey, soldiers are rarely if ever out of line. It the government, the PMO specifically that isn't being realistic. Read Hillier's book on how publicly the Harper government beats its chest in support of our troops, when behind the scenes, the Harper PMO made such serious blunders out of arrogance and hubris, that it cost lives, our soldier's lives. Hillier fought the PMO from running the ground operations from Harper's cell phone. As far as the Geneva convention…it only works when the PMO backs our troops. But the PMO is interested in covering it's own ass and nothing else.

    • Yes. That's why we're the good guys…

      ..and they're not.

  12. the war is buchiese war,we r folowers in this agression all canadienn soldiers died for nashing. they dit not give their life,it was taken away,lets get aut of afganistan.its the only good thing.it will never be won.

  13. Here's hoping he gets a fair sentence: no jail, no fine, no reprimand and a return to full, active duty.

  14. This verdict is an affront to our armed forces personnel. We train, arm and ask our soldiers to do a job that so few of us are willing or capable of performing. Why second guess their judgement in the field? Of course our armed forces should be held to a high standard of behavior! But this case is about is politicking and little else. For the vast majority of Canadians the view is pretty good from the cheap seats. It's awfully easy to pass judgement from the safety of the local Starbucks while a few of our men and women are busy doing the bleeding and dieing – 150 so far – in the name of Canadian "values" like peace, stability, democracy and freedom. Capt. Semrau should be cleared of all charges, awarded a medal, and returned to active duty.

    • Come on. I'm glad he basically got off. But awarded a medal? for what? Shooting a defenseless, bleeding, likely to die enemy at point blank range? Rather easy medal to get.

      If he actually killed him as a "mercy kill" I say good job. It took more guts to do that than to pretend to help when you know he's just going to cough blood and die after convulsing a few times. However, let's keep the medals for acts of heroism and also a story with less conflicting accounts.

      • Defenceless? Taliban combatant? Am I reading this right? First time for everything, I guess.

  15. Everyone of those responsible for dragging this fellow through the mud should be charged as traitors and , if found gulty, dealth with accordingly

    • Talk to Harper. He runs everything out of the PMO. And if you don't believe me ask Rick Hillier the political crap he had to deal with when it came to Harper. You Harper believes that he's a military expert along with everything else. This was purely political. This good brave soldier will not get a single day in jail. But Harper and his thugs made sure that politically speaking there was trial as if to prove to Canadians that the PMO won't tolerate improper behavior when it comes to taliban prisoners. Mortally wounded or otherwise. Harper can now point to this trial when his Afghan Detainee Documents show what a political vampire Harper is when selling our troops behind the scenes. He will point to this trial that due process does take place. Harper is a treasonous coward.

  16. In my day SOP was if you were on a recon patrol you were not to take prisoners unless they had valuable intell. All others would be shot so as not to slow down the unit or report back to their units the whereabouts of the patrol. This policy saved the lives of many of OUR guys. The unfortunate combatant that was mortally wounded I'm sure appreciated this Capt.'s act of mercy. Unless you have seen someone with their guts hanging out all over the ground and their legs shot off you have no concept of what was going on. This isn't some panzy video game or a Bruce Willis movie folks. The suffering this poor man was in would have been incredible. It was indeed a mercy kill. If I were the Capt. I would have done the same thing. If I were the mortally wounded combatant I would have appreciated his action. A speedy trip to my maker sure beats the alternative.

    • And which ROE (Rule of Engagement) do you mean? There is not an "SOP" to cover actions in a war zone. After 30 years as a military officer I know of no ROE which says common decency is to be ignored when dealing with a non-combatant (which according to the Geneva Convention this severely wounded person was included). Perhaps (I don't really know -thank god) I might have done the same if the only other option was to leave him to suffer and die: I doubt that was the case – we have a medical evac team stationed in AF. However, I do know as a Commissioned Officer I understand the consequences of my actions: if I took a life under these circumstances then I would expect no less than the appropriate consequences. Canada does NOT endorse "mercy killing." That is the philosophy accepted by Commissioned Officers in the CF: we, in fact, take an oath to that effect.

      • Nerill, with all due respect, I suspect you haven’t been in close combat. The see the whites of their eyes kind of stuff. I too was a commissioned officer, not in the Canadian Army, and have seen far to much blood and guts. Decisions have to be made on the spot, in the heat of battle, that are aimed at saving your men’s lives. While this was not a battle situation, it was still the right thing to do. I suggest you read the book “Six Silent Men” by Reynel Martinez to find out what it’s like to be on a recon patrol. Albeit a different war, but the reality is the same I’m sure.

        • Oh yes Ranger Rick, I can see you’re a hardened combat vet who’s “seen some things man! … You just don’t know what it’s like.” To make assumptions about my combat experience is, of course, your prerogative. I will concede the “who’s seen the greatest body count” contest. In any event, appropriate Rules of Engagement and abiding by the Geneva Convention ARE what separates us from many who we are fighting: otherwise we cannot claim our policies are the correct ones. Once an enemy is wounded AND the commander of the operation has control of the situation, then they have a POW and EVERY care must be taken to protect and treat them. That was the case here. Capt Semrau had options other than (frankly) murder. He chose not to opt for them. I was not there (and neither were you!) and I don’t know what was going on in his head at the time. My application of combat behavior would probably be different (maybe), but I do know that I would fully accept the consequences of deviation from those rules. Capt Semrau DID engage in disgraceful conduct: he knows that. Perhaps that’s why he did not raise a specific defense. He is an honorable Officer who knows now he made a mistake and, I surmise, expected the consequences. THAT is what separates a true professional.

    • I completely agree. And call me cold-hearted, but isn't the point of war to kill the enemy combatants? If this man did it out of mercy, he should be commemorated, not subject to a trial. But then again, this is the country where the Canadian Navy escorts illegals to our front door on the taxpayer's money. My bad.

  17. Mercy killing is illegal. Our soldiers know that it's illegal, and they also know that they are required to work within the law. I have the utmost respect for the military justice system that investigated and tried this matter, and the jury of military officers who delivered these verdicts. They know that it is anything but disrespectful to expect officers to obey the law.

  18. We sent him to a hostile land, armed to the teeth, with the implicit and explicit understanding that he would engage enemy combatants and kill them. Then we indict him for murder for firing one extra shot.

    Thanks for putting your young life on the line for your country, brave lad. As your reward, we might not send you to prison for the next decade. But that'll be up to a jury. Nothing personal, just due process you understand.

    I do not condone mercy killing, of enemy combatants or anyone else. As a state, we cannot turn a blind eye to it when one of our soldiers does it. But putting him on trial for murder? We sent him into enemy territory with a gun for khrissakes!!!

    I don't pretend to have an answer, but there's got to be a more humane way of dealing with things like this.

    • OK. I've mulled this over a bit. And my conclusion has changed somewhat. (Funny how that happens when you take the time to think about something. ) Perhaps… just perhaps, justice was served here. Nothing was covered up. Nothing was swept under the carpet. The military justice officials had a very unenviable task in bringing this young man to trial, and they must have detested every minute of it. But the issue had a thorough airing in court, and the matter settled. The system never condemned this young man. They put him before a jury and let them decide. And maybe that's just the best way to do it. Maybe in the long run, it was best for Captain Robert Semrau too, that he was tried and found not guilty of murder in a court of law. In any case, I sure hope the judge shows lenience in the sentencing for the conviction he did receive, and that Capt. Semrau is able to put his life back together again.

      • They should show mercy. This is a country where attempted murder is rewarded with peace bonds (as long as the defendant is female or an "ethnic minority" who couldn't help themselves. But they tend to punish more severely the ones who can help themselves in their eyes.

  19. We don't like to say it out loud, but this is a war without quarter.

  20. We should all be very proud of the professionalism, dedication and courage shown by our military rank and file. Unfortunately it seems that the only real offence committed here is to be not politically correct.
    The politically correct, (not to dwell on the demographics of this faction – if you don't know….), believe the lion and the lamb shall lie down together – the front line soldier knows that only one of them will get up.