Four Polish soldiers face retrial in Afghan war crimes case
WARSAW: Four Polish troops will face a fresh trial on allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan after Poland’s top court overturned their acquittals on charges of having killed civilians in an Afghan village.
“The prosecutor’s appeal is in part justified,” Judge Wieslaw Blus told the court. “The court has overturned the ruling and is forwarding the case for a new review,” he said.
The court also confirmed the acquittals of three other soldiers in the case, the first ever court martial for war crimes involving Polish troops fighting abroad.
In June last year, a Polish court cleared seven soldiers of war crimes over the deaths of six civilians on August 16, 2007 in the village of Nangar Khel in south-eastern Paktika province.
It justified the acquittal saying it lacked evidence the troops had intended to attack civilians.
But prosecutors in the case insisted that evidence suggesting that the deaths of the six civilians had been “a deliberate act” had been overlooked and launched an appeal.
At the original trial, they had sought prison sentences ranging from five to 12 years for the accused.
The soldiers, members of Poland’s contingent in Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan, opened fire with mortars and automatic weapons on the village in the mountainous Paktika province, claiming to have been responding to an earlier attack by Taliban.
Six Afghan civilian died and several others were wounded. The victims included women and children.
Prosecutors had argued that the soldiers breached longstanding laws of war — notably the 1907 Fourth Hague Convention and the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention, governing the treatment of civilians in a conflict zone.
The soldiers pleaded not guilty, claiming that they were responding to a Taliban attack and that the deaths resulted from faulty mortar equipment.
But prosecutors had alleged the deaths occurred several hours after the Poles had responded to an attack on a separate patrol.