Two British soldiers sentenced abusing civilians in Afghanistan
TWO British soldiers were today sentenced for abusing civilians, including children, during the war in Afghanistan.
A 22-year-old former serviceman was fined £1,000 for two charges of conduct to the prejudice of good order and service discipline, while a 23-year-old serving officer was reduced to the ranks for a racially aggravated offence.
Both men, neither of whom can be named for legal reasons, plead guilty to the abuse at a court martial in Sennelager, Germany.
The former private, referred to as Soldier X to avoid reprisals against him and his family, admitted pulling the hand of an Afghan child towards his crotch while saying 'Touch my special place'.
Dressed in a silver suit and white shirt, he also pleaded guilty to insulting an Afghan boy who he called a "f****** c***".
But he was cleared of disgraceful conduct of an indecent kind and of allegedly forcing an Afghan girl to touch him on a separate occasion.
The officer, Soldier Y, admitted posing in a photograph with an Afghan man who was carrying a racist sign which read "Silly Paki".
Their patrol commander, Soldier Z, was cleared of failing in his duty to deal with the offences.
Judge Advocate Alan Large deliberated together with a panel of three serving officers for over an hour.
Sentencing both men, he said the offences had taken place during a "demanding operational situation with risk of attack from insurgents and a persistent IED threat".
"Many soldiers develop their own strategies for dealing with the pressure of life on operations," he said.
"One of those strategies is banter, which has been a historic feature of military life and particularly life on operations.
"The boundary between what is acceptable and what trespasses into unacceptable behaviour is sometimes unclear and difficult to distinguish.
"Having said that, all soldiers, particularly those serving in Afghanistan, are fully trained and fully prepared for all aspects of your duties.
"We have heard that you were briefed on the sensibilities of the country and aware of the need to respect local customs and cultures and to avoid any behaviour that could be interpreted as having sexual or racist connotations which could cause understandable offence to people in that country."
The Judge Advocate said he accepted there was no sexual motive behind Soldier X's behaviour when he held a child of around five on his knee and told him to touch his privates in December 2011.
"The child did not touch your private parts and we have seen that the child in question was not aware of what you did - fortunately neither were the adults in the local population," he said.
The Judge Advocate added that the insulting language Soldier X used between October 16 2011 and January 6 2012 towards a second, older Afghan child had "clearly caused offence" and had been "unacceptable".
"It was an ill-judged attempt at humour but there is no justification for your behaviour," he added.
Addressing Soldier Y, who was serving as Lance Bombardier at the time of the offence he committed, the Judge Advocate said that his racist behaviour was "highly offensive and particularly stupid".
He said: "You have been trained to act with decorum and you singularly failed to do that.
"It was your role to stop what was happening, not to join in, and you did not do that."