[JURIST] A Marine Corps General Friday declined to press charges against two US Marines involved in a March 2007 incident [CENTCOM press release] in which 30 US Marines opened fire on civilians alongside a road in Nangahar province, Afghanistan, after a suicide bomber drove a vehicle carrying explosives into their convoy. Lt. Gen. Samuel Helland made the decision after hearing the recommendation of a court of inquiry proceeding [Marine Corps News report], the first convened in 50 years, about whether charges should be brought against platoon leader Capt. Vincent J. Noble and Maj. Fred C. Galvin, who commanded the 120-person unit at the time of the incident. A Marines spokesperson said that the two Marines and a third man will still face administrative action.
A preliminary US military investigation [JURIST report] found that the Marines began firing at bystanders, including women and elderly men, along a several mile stretch of road as they left the scene. As many as 19 civilians were killed and another 50 injured. The soldiers are members of a Marine Corps Special Forces unit under the command of the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) [official website] and were sent to Afghanistan to carry out special reconnaissance, intelligence and commando missions. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) [official website] released a report [PDF text] last year claiming the soldiers violated international humanitarian law [JURIST report] by using indiscriminate and excessive force in its response to the suicide bombing. AP has more.