A British Royal Marine was found guilty by a military court on Friday of murdering an injured Afghan insurgent. It was the first time a U.K. soldier has been convicted of such a crime related to the war in Afghanistan.
The marine, who will be sentenced next month, faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Two other marines were acquitted of killing the unknown man in Helmand province in 2011. The three were identified in court only as marines A, B and C; their identities have been withheld under an anonymity order.
The victim, already severely injured by an Apache helicopter after an attack on a local patrol base, was shot at close range with a 9 mm pistol by Marine A in a field.
Audio clips from a video showing the killing, inadvertently filmed by Marine B on his helmet camera, were released on Thursday, but the judge blocked the release of the full video evidence to prevent it from being used as propaganda.
In the clips, Marine A can be heard shooting the man and then saying, "There you are. Shuffle off this mortal coil,” a quote from Shakespeare’s "Hamlet."
“It's nothing you wouldn't do to us,” he said, before warning his companions to keep the killing secret.
"Obviously this doesn't go anywhere, fellas. I just broke the Geneva Convention."
Other evidence in the trial was a diary entry by Marine C, in which he described how he felt "mugged off" that he had not been the one to shoot the prisoner.
Brig. Bill Dunham, deputy commandant general of the Royal Marines, called the murder of the Afghan man "a truly shocking and appalling aberration.”
"It should not have happened and it should never happen again,” he said in a statement released by the British Ministry of Defence.
The trial began in August after the three marines were arrested in October 2012, following the discovery of video footage of the incident by civilian police on a serviceman's laptop.
The British investigation into the killing was applauded by human rights activists, who say foreign forces in Afghanistan have too often enjoyed impunity for alleged crimes committed against Afghan citizens.
In a press release Tuesday, Human Rights Watch called for an investigation into new allegations that U.S. troops may have been involved in the deaths of 18 Afghan men in Wardak province late last year.
An Afghan interpreter for U.S. forces has been implicated in one of the deaths, but Human Rights Watch said a thorough investigation has not been conducted.
“The U.S. has a meager record of investigating and prosecuting human rights abuses allegedly committed by its forces during its 12-year military presence in Afghanistan,” the group said.
Negotiations between the U.S. and Afghanistan about when and how to withdraw the majority of the 52,000 U.S. troops left in Afghanistan have stalled due to Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s rejection of U.S. requests to guarantee immunity for American troops, among other things.
The U.S. wants to maintain a force of around 10,000 troops in the country for “counterterrorism” operations, and is requesting sole jurisdiction over possible crimes committed by its troops during the course of the war.
Karzai has said that issue would be up to tribal leaders and elders, who may feel such a condition violates Afghan sovereignty.
If a deal cannot be reached, the U.S. will be forced to withdraw the entirety of its military presence from Afghanistan.
Al Jazeera with wire services