Marines face court-martial for urinating on dead Afghans

Reuters / Shannon Stapleton
Two of the Marines alleged to have urinated on the corpses of Taliban fighters are now facing criminal charges and will be forced to face a court-martial over the incident.

Marine Staff Sgt. Joseph W. Chamblin and Staff Sgt. Edward W. Deptola will be court-martialed over accusations that they were involved in the defiling of the bodies, an act that was recorded on video by an eye-witness and leaked to the Web for public viewing. They were presented on Friday with several charges relating to violating the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

When footage of the incident first appeared on the Internet earlier this year in January, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he feared that the clip would hinder America’s efforts to ease out of their war in Afghanistan and condemned their behavior by calling it “utterly deplorable.” The US has since continued to prepare for a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan, slated for 2014.

Three other Marines, all junior in rank, received administrative punishment last month for their role in the incident. Only now, however, has the military consider criminal charges against anyone presumed to be involved in the incident. The Marine Corps released a statement on Monday saying that disciplinary actions against other Marines will be announced at a later date, and that, meanwhile, there are "other pending cases related to this incident.”

Because Chamblin and Deptola were more senior in rank than their fellow Marines at the time of the urination episode, they are facing additional scrutiny for failing to supervise subordinate troops. In addition to charges relating to the urinating crime, both staff sergeants will also have to explain themselves to fight allegations that they did not properly supervisor their junior colleagues and failed to report their misconduct. Additionally, they have been cited for not ensuring that the junior Marines were wearing their required personal protective equipment. The court-martial will also investigate allegations that Chamblin and Deptola failed to report the "negligent discharge" of a grenade launcher.

Both Chamblin and Deptola were on assignment with the Camp Lejeune, N.C.-based 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment at the time of the incident. Although the clip did not receive widespread Internet attention until this past January, the Marine Corps believe that the event itself occurred on or around July 27, 2011 in Helmand province, Afghanistan.