“Kill Team” Sentence Only One Step in Full Accountability for Civilian Murders
Washington, DC – Human Rights First today said that yesterday’s court martial conviction of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs, who was charged with murder and conspiracy in the slaughter of Afghan civilians for sport, must not be the end of the inquiry. The group notes that while others have been charged and convicted in the killing spree, in which Gibbs acknowledged cutting fingers off corpses and yanking out a victim’s tooth to keep as war trophies, “like keeping the antlers off a deer you’d shoot,” there has still been no public accounting of responsibility up the chain of command.
“Command responsibility is the most important feature of military culture. It draws the line between honorable conduct and the brutality and chaos into which war will otherwise descend. Command’s enforcement of the laws of war serves the national interest. Violations place our forces at greater risk,” said Human Rights First’s Gabor Rona. An investigation into the 5th Stryker Brigade unit exposed widespread misconduct.According to prosecutor Maj. Robert Stelle, it was a platoon that was “out of control,” an assessment Human Rights First says raises questions about the brigade’s permissive leadership culture and the Army’s mechanisms for reporting misconduct. Earlier this year, Human Rights First called for the Army to make public its 700 page report based on Army Brigadier General Stephen Twitty’s investigation into this so-called “kill team.” The group noted that the Army’s report may shed new light on whether any officers in the chain of command could or should be held accountable for actions of their subordinates. The report remains classified. In light of yesterday’s conviction, Human Rights First is again calling for the public release of the Twitty Report and for appropriate accountability measures to be publicly imposed against officers who either knew or should have known about the war crimes being committed under their command. “The United States has a history of prosecuting enemy commanders convicted of either knowing, or that they should have known, about their soldiers’ atrocities. The same standard must be applied to our own military.”