[JURIST] A US Marine legal adviser charged with failure to properly report and investigate the killings of 24 Iraqi civilians at Haditha [USMC timeline; JURIST news archive] appeared before a military panel Tuesday that will decide whether the charges should go to court-martial. Capt. Randy W. Stone, formerly of the 3rd Platoon, Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, stands accused of dereliction of duty and violating a lawful order to investigate the incident; three other officers are charged with similar offenses. Stone's civilian attorney, Charles Gittins, said Stone did nothing wrong because he reported the facts to his superiors and that he was not required to ensure that they followed up on the information. Platoon commander Lt. William Kallop testified that he thought that in the circumstances the Marines involved in the incident did nothing wrong and acted within lawful rules of engagement. The San Diego Tribune-Review has more.
The Haditha investigation has culminated in the largest US military prosecution involving civilian deaths during the war in Iraq. Iraqi witnesses claim that Marines led by Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich [advocacy website] shot into the homes of civilians after a fellow Marine was killed by a roadside bomb. Wuterich, who faces thirteen charges of unpremeditated murder, has maintained that his unit followed the rules of engagement [JURIST report] and did not purposefully attack civilians. Last month, charges against Sgt. Sanick Dela Cruz were dropped [JURIST report] in exchange for his testimony against other marines involved. A report by US Army Major General Eldon Bargewell subsequently found "serious misconduct" [JURIST report] on all levels of the US Marine Corps chain of command.