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Rape of Hamdania

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The Hamdania incident refers to alleged war crimes committed by members of the United States Marines in relation to the shooting death of an Iraqi civilian on April 26, 2006 in Al Hamdania, a small village west of Baghdad near Abu Ghraib prison. Internal investigators of the US military are preparing charges of murder, kidnapping, and conspiracy associated with the coverup of the incident. The defendants are seven Marines and a Navy Corpsman. Additional Marines from the same battalion face lesser charges of assault related to the use of physical force during interrogations of suspected insurgents.

Shooting death of Hashim Ibrahim AwadEdit

It is alleged that the Marines abducted the Iraqi civilian, Hashim Ibrahim Awad, killed him a half hour later, placed an AK-47 and a shovel next to his body along the road, then falsified the formal report of the incident, asserting he was shot while digging a hole for a roadside bomb. In an interview on ABC television, Congressman John P. Murtha explained "some Marines pulled somebody out of a house, put them next to an IED, fired some AK-47s so they'd have cartridges there. And then tried to cover that up."[1]

According to allegations by supposed neighbors and family members, around 2:00 AM on the morning of April 26th the Marines pounded on the door of one of the village houses demanding a search. They asked the occupant, a cousin of the victim, if he had any weapons. He had an AK-47 (each family in Iraq is allowed one rifle). They took the rifle and also a shovel resting in front of the house. They then went to two other homes, asking at one if there were any men in the house. At the fourth house, when Hashim Ibrahim Awad answered the door, the Marines grabbed his hands and pulled him out of the house, not searching his house afterward. Accounts differ on this and no witnesses are available to corroborate any of the story. Thirty minutes later gunshots were allegedly heard.

The next morning the local police brought a body to the neighbors for identification, saying he had been killed by the Americans. Accounts differ and differing Iraqis have given a variety of stories on this, mostly noting that no family members recognized Awad and the body was sent by the Iraqi police to the local hospital. The victim's face was swollen beyond recognition (apparently as a result of a beating) and he had been shot in the mouth.[2] By other accounts he was shot four times in the face.[3] The official autopsy results have not--as of the time of the Article 32 hearings for Jodka, Shumate, and Magincalda--been made public. Video of his funeral is, however, available. In it, Awad's family members can be seen wailing in grief.

Charges and investigationEdit

Murder and kidnapping chargesEdit

The Marines involved, members of Kilo Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines ("3/5"),1st Marine Division, have been placed in confinement in Camp Pendleton pending possible charges. Press reports noted it was unusual for Marines to be placed in the brig before charges have been filed, suggesting concern by authorities the men may be considered a flight risk. [1]Under military law the defendants could face the death penalty.

On June 21, 2006 the Reuters news services reported[4] that the United States Marine Corps will announce charges of murder against seven Marines and one Navy Hospital Corpsman: Corporal Marshall L. Magincalda, Corporal Trent D. Thomas, Lance Corporal Robert B. Pennington, Navy Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos, Sergeant Lawrence G. Hutchins III, Lance Corporal Jerry E. Shumate Jr., Private First Class John J. Jodka, and Lance Corporal Tyler A. Jackson. The charges will also include kidnapping, conspiracy, making false official statements, and larceny.

Congressional hearing promisedEdit

The House and Senate armed services committees intend to hold hearings into the Hamdania events as well as the Haditha massacre.[5]

Investigation uncovers unrelated assaults by the same battalion Edit

In the course of the military investigation, additional assault charges were made against Hutchins, Shumate, and Thomas, as well as against three other Marines from the same battalion who were not involved in the murder. A seventh Marine, an officer, is also expected to face assault charges. An attorney familiar with the military investigation expects the charges will relate to the use of physical violence to extract information from suspected insurgents in the Hamdania area.[6]

Subsequent reports reveal that these assault charges were related to activities occurring half a month earlier on April 10, 2006, also in Hamdania, in which three civilians were brutalized by US Marine personnel. It was disclosed that the Marine officer was 2nd Lt. Nathan P. Phan, who is charged with beating the civilians to the point of nearly killing them, choking two of the them, and placing a loaded M9 service pistol into the mouth of the third civilian. [7] Phan is also charged with making a false official statement. Phan's attorney states that all charges are without merit.

Magincalda and Jodka face Article 32 hearings under the Uniform Code of Military JusticeEdit

On August 30, 2006 separate military hearings were initiated for Magincalda and Jodka under Article 32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice on several charges each, including murder. Reports returned from the Investigating Officers find no evidence to support charges of murder, but recommend a General Court Martial (the IO report for Magincalda is not specific recommendations of specific charges for Court Martial).

Other members of the squad charged in the Hamdania incident will have their Article 32 hearings in Sept/Oct 2006.

Article 32 hearings are analogous to grand jury investigations in that they function to determine if there is sufficient evidence to support a trial. In place of a jury, the decision will be made by the ranking officer at Camp Pendleton, Lt. General James Mattis, based on a recommendation from an Investigating Officer.

According to Gary D. Solis, professor at Georgetown University Law Center and former Marine Corps prosecutor, it is likely that prosecutors will be able to get at least one of the eight squad members to cooperate with the promise of a reduced sentence, as some of them potentially face the death penalty. On October 4, 2006, Bacos revealed through his lawyer Jeremiah Sullivan that he will testify against the Marine defendants. The details of that plea deal and his proferred testimony have not yet been released.[8] Defense attorneys are expected to object that testimony allegedly obtained under coercion as unreliable, and also to argue that Iraqi accounts of the incident are also suspect.

In spite of defense statements that their clients' Article 32 hearings showed weaknesses in the prosecution's caes, on September 25, 2006, Mattis recommended that Jodka, Shumate, and Magincalda face a general court martial for murder. According to Mattis' official statements, the defendants no longer face the death penalty.[9]

Sailor testifies against MarinesEdit

On October 7, 2006 military prosecutors reached an agreement with Petty Officer 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos in which charges against the corpsman would be reduced to kidnapping and conspiracy in return for his testimony.

According to Bacos, the Marines set out that night to capture an insurgent who had been captured and released several times. They agreed in advance if they could not get the insurgent, they would "get someone else". Knocking on the door of one house, they decided not to search it. They proceeded to another house which turned out to be the home of Hashim Ibrahim Awad. They took Awad from his home, bound his hands and feet, then placed him in a hole. Hutchins fired three rounds into his Awad's head. Thomas fired seven to 10 more rounds into Awad's chest after checking he was dead. Hutchins then faked a call into the command center requesting permission to fire on an insurgent. Pennington then pressed Awad's fingerprints onto a shovel and AK-47 they had brought to implicate Awad as an insurgent. Finally, Bacos was asked to fire an AK-47 into the air to simulate the sound of a fire fight.[10]

Bacos, who was assigned to the unit as a medic, said he asked the Marines to let Awad go, but Cpl. Magincalda told him he was being weak and should stop protesting.

"I knew what we were doing was wrong," Bacos testified. "I tried to say something and then I decided to look away." Since this time, Jodka and Jackson have also testified and Shumate, through his attorney, has signalled an intention to take a plea deal and testify against the remaining defendants. The Pendleton 8 are now the Pendleton 4.

November 2006 ConvictionEdit

In November 2006 Lance Corporal Jerry Shumate was jailed for 21 months after he pleaded guilty to the aggravated assault of an Iraqi man who was killed in the town of Hamdania in April. Shumate also admitted conspiracy to obstruct justice. In return for his guilty pleas, other charges including murder, kidnapping, assault and conspiracy were dismissed. During his testimony at Camp Pendleton in California, Shumate said that the squad had been looking for Iraqis planting bombs when the men agreed a plan to kill a known fighter. Four of the squad from the 2nd platoon of Kilo Company from Camp Pendleton's 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment left to abduct him, Shumate said. When they returned with a prisoner, he was "told to fire" by the squad leader and fired between 10 and 20 rounds at the retired Iraqi policeman. Eight men were originally charged with kidnapping Hashim Ibrahim Awad a disabled father of 11 and trying to cover up his killing by planting a gun and a shovel next to the body to make him look like he was planting bombs. Awad was seized from his home after the suspected insurgent could not be found. Other US marines based at Camp Pendleton are under investigation over a separate incident in November 2005 in which 24 civilians were killed in the Iraqi town of Haditha. (North County Times and other online reports 22 November 2006)

Initial confusion over the village name 'Hamdania'Edit

Some accounts, including the original US government press release, incorrectly gave the name of the village as Hamandiyah or Hamadiya instead of the correct Hamdania (pronounced hahm-da-NEE-yah). A variant spelling is Hamdaniyah. A number of unrelated locations in the region share a similar name including Al-Hamdaniya Municipality near Mosul.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit

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