A former Wall Street trader who rejoined the Marines after the Sept. 11 attacks will not be tried on murder charges for killing two suspected Iraqi insurgents, a Marine general decided Thursday.
The decision by Maj. Gen. Richard Huck, commander of the 2nd Marine Division based at Camp Lejeune, ends the prosecution of 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano, whom prosecutors accused of killing the men without justification.
The two Iraqis were killed during an April 2004 search outside a suspected terrorist hideout in Mahmudiyah, Iraq. Pantano, 33, contended he shot them in self-defense after the men disobeyed his instructions and made a menacing move toward him.
Prosecutors alleged Pantano intended to make an example of the men by shooting them 60 times and hanging a sign over their bodies — “No better friend, no worse enemy,” a Marine slogan. While citing self-defense as his motive, Pantano did not deny hanging the sign or shooting the men repeatedly.
Pantano is now helping to train troops at Camp Lejeune, but his attorney said he hopes the decision will clear the way for the Marine to return to a combat unit.
I don’t have a problem with Lt. Pantano slipping the double-murder charge. If there was no evidence to support the allegation that he killed the two men without reason then justice has been done.
However Lt. Pantano has openly admitted to pumping sixty rounds into the dead bodies of the two men and then hanging a sign over the corpses. His actions are a clear violation of Articles 15 and 17 of the First Geneva Convention:
Art. 15. At all times, and particularly after an engagement, Parties to the conflict shall, without delay, take all possible measures to search for and collect the wounded and sick, to protect them against pillage and ill-treatment, to ensure their adequate care, and to search for the dead and prevent their being despoiled.
Art. 17 They shall further ensure that the dead are honourably interred, if possible according to the rites of the religion to which they belonged, that their graves are respected, grouped if possible according to the nationality of the deceased, properly maintained and marked so that they may always be found.
The fact that Lt. Pantano has been allowed to violate the Geneva Conventions (and thus U.S. law) is bad enough. The fact that he has been training new recruits at Camp Lejune is simply outrageous.