The U.S. Marine Corps says it will court-martial two non-commissioned officers for allegedly urinating on the bodies of Taliban fighters last year in Afghanistan and posing for unofficial photos with casualties.
The charges are against Staff Sergeants Joseph W. Chamblin and Edward W. Deptola.
The two also were charged with other misconduct on the same day as the urination incident. That includes dereliction of duty by failing to properly supervise junior Marines and failing to stop and report misconduct of junior Marines.
Three other Marines were given administrative punishments last month for their role in the urination incident.
A videotape that surfaced on the Internet in January showed four U.S. troops urinating on three bloodied corpses, and one of the men, apparently aware he was being filmed, saying: “Have a great day, buddy,” to one of the dead.
The Pentagon said that charges against the sergeants concern “violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for their involvement in urinating on deceased Taliban fighters and for posing for unofficial photographs with human casualties.”
The actions depicted in the video took place during a counter-insurgency operation in the restive Musa Qala district of Helmand province, in southwestern Afghanistan in July, 2011.
The video caused great embarrassment to the U.S. military and prompted a Naval Criminal Investigative Service investigation, as well as condemnation and an apology from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta.
Mr. Panetta said at the time the video surfaced that the troops’ behavior was “utterly deplorable,” while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke of her “total dismay” at the acts, vowing the culprits would be found and punished.
The decision to refer the sergeants for trial comes in the midst of a wave of violent anti-American protests in the Muslim world over a U.S.-made film that ridicules the Prophet Mohammed.
The three U.S. Marines who received administrative punishment last month over the urination incident in Afghanistan pleaded guilty.
Punishment from administrative proceedings – as opposed to courts martial – can include reduction in rank, restriction to a military base, extra duties, forfeiture of pay, a reprimand, or a combination of such measures.