I would have posted this sooner but have been out of town.
A soldiers code of honour
July 17, 2010
PHOTO: Capt. Robert Semrau, who awaits the verdict in his Canadian military trial, served previously with Britain's renowned Parachute Regiment, above.
COURTESY OF CHRIS YATES
OTTAWAEven back when he was a boy in Moose Jaw, Sask., known simply as Robbie, Capt. Robert Semrau was guided by a code of honour.
First it was a deep-rooted Christian faith, instilled by his parents Jean and Don. Then it was his teenage devotion to ninjutsu, the martial art of the ninja.
That was followed by his rise through the ranks of two armies with their own strict legal and moral standards: first a stint with Britains famed Parachute Regiment, then as an officer at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa with the Royal Canadian Regiments 3rd battalion.
Along the way, Semrau, a 36-year-old married father of two girls, has literally carried the weak, provided guidance and support to many, and given offence to few.
Scores of people across the world have crossed paths with Semrau, and many have been permanently touched by his generosity. They were horrified to learn a year and a half ago on New Years Eve 2008 that the boy, man and soldier they knew had been charged with second-degree murder in the alleged mercy killing of an unarmed, mortally wounded Taliban fighter somewhere along a dusty path in Afghanistans Helmand province on Oct. 19, 2008.
I saw the name, and his name is not a common name, so I said, I might know that guy, recalled Tony Tardos.
I read it and it turned out to be the guy I knew, said Tardos, a Christian broadcaster from Nashville who bunked with Semrau for from September 1991 to March 1992 at the Bodenseehof Torchbearer Bible School in southern Germany.
Tardos recalled a strong, athletic young man who played a number of sports but drew the line at football.
He would say that He didnt want to do football, all that screaming and bashing and the physicality of the sport. He would say, I dont think thats for me.
If there is tragedy in the incident that could send Semrau to jail and end his coveted military career, it is that it is happening to an exceedingly good man, a model citizen and standout soldier, friends and colleagues say.
His fate will soon rest with a four-member military panel, none below the rank of captain, which heard evidence over the course of a three-month trial. Under military law, the defence and prosecution collaborate over the wording of the charge to the panel.
The panel the military equivalent of a jury will be addressed Saturday, then sequestered until the four reach a verdict.
If found guilty, a military judge will determine the sentence. The second-degree murder charge carries a minimum sentence of 10 years and a maximum of life.
In a dozen interviews conducted by the Star both with people who crossed Semraus path for just a few months and with those who have known him since his youth a picture emerges of a man who is not an impulsive, hotheaded soldier, driven by the stress of battle to breach the National Defence Act and the laws of war.
His motive was to serve. It wasnt to have a big gun and shoot things, you know? It was to serve people, said Aaron Caruk, a Toronto musician who has known Semrau since their time together at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon in 1994.
I would trust Robs judgment in any given situation, on or off a battlefield, said Dean Richardson, who enlisted with Semrau in the British army in 1999 and served with him in a platoon of the 2nd Battalion Parachute Regiment.
I class him as a person of high standards in all walks of life, and someone who would not overstep his duties and boundaries which all soldiers are to abide by.
Before his training in the use of force as a martial arts student and later as a soldier his early days in Moose Jaw, 80 kilometres west of Regina, were a model of peaceful Prairie living. He attended Christian youth groups and went on to became a group leader for younger children.
He was just kind, honest. The best description I guess I would think for him was that he was inclusive. He didnt like to see anybody standing at the sidelines, said Mavis Ens, a family acquaintance from Saskatchewan whose daughter married one of Semraus best friends.
I got to know him when he was a teenager and got to see how he dealt with kids and it didnt surprise me that he went into the military because I always felt he was definitely a natural born leader.
Semrau moved to Saskatoon to study psychology at university and started training in ninjutsu at a local club, forming a tight-knit circle of friends. He took to martial arts quickly and trained passionately, said Caruk, who was then a junior instructor.
Within a few years Semrau was also instructing students. It was around this time that he started considering a military career.
He told me that he believed it was his calling to protect the innocent, and when necessary to fight and risk his own life to protect those that could not protect themselves, Caruk recalled.
At the time, Canadas overseas footprint was tiny, so Semrau moved to England and enlisted in the British military, where he was deployed to Northern Ireland, Macedonia and Afghanistan.
Chris Yates, a private who served with Semrau, said he demonstrated his selflessness one day when soldiers were completing water safety training in rigid boats. At one point two boats were on course to collide.
Without a thought for his own safety he jumped into the water, shouting Man overboard, and used his own body as a buffer between the two boats to prevent anyone getting injured, Yates recalled.
When Semrau returned in 2002 from his first tour in Afghanistan with the British army, he told Caruk tales of what he had seen. What stuck out in his the soldiers memories were the threats to innocent locals, particularly women and children, by Afghan gangs and warlords.
He believed his presence in those villages was making a difference to those innocent lives, Caruk said.
When his enlistment with the British military term of service ended in 2003, Semrau returned to Canada, settled in Ottawa and turned his mind to becoming an officer in the Canadian Forces. His first job, though, was several steps down in rank. The battle-hardened soldier started civilian work as a receptionist. in an office.
Regan Rambally was one of his colleagues. He had been unemployed for 18 months, and when he arrived for his first day of work, Semrau cleaned his cubicle, presented him with a box of office supplies and made him feel welcome.
Nobody ever gave me the kind of courtesy that he did ... , and I just assumed he was like that for everybody but it was a couple of weeks before I was really able to see that hes like that with everybody, Rambally said.
He also became Semraus guinea pig when he quit the job to pursue his certification as a personal fitness trainer.
Rob is the kind of guy who, if youve got a goal, if youve got a desire, hes going to motivate you, boost you into that desire, Rambally said. He knew, for me, Im looking for a wife and he was trying to motivate me, ready to help me along in any way.
The Canadian Forces soon came calling for Semraus services, and in September 2005 he and about 100 others gathered at the military college in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, southeast of Montreal, for three months of officer cadet training.
Few had Semraus military experience, said Ashley Durdle, a member of Semraus platoon who is now an organic farmer in Saint John, N.B.
That showed with his demeanour at first. He seemed wiser than a lot of the people there, she said.
The training was gruelling, down time was rare and recruits were cut off from their families. The only personal touch allowed was a 5-by-7 picture frame, usually holding a picture of a spouse or children.
He had a picture with a Star Wars figure on a backpack just for a laugh, so that when the sergeant comes in hes totally taken aback by it, Durdle said. He always knew the appropriate time to be funny and the appropriate time to be serious.
Semrau kept up morale in platoon B0054E, as at one point or another every cadet had thoughts of dropping out. At one point or another, everyone had doubts doubted that they could continue and considered dropping out, Durdle said.
For Capt. Doug Birtles, now an officer at CFB Borden, his moment of doubt came in the final days of the course after a coffee urn fell on his foot and broke his toe.
They were on a 24-kilometre march in icy December conditions, carrying about 30 pounds of gear and weaponry. After 18 kilometres, Birtles said he couldnt go on: he had torn a muscle in the hip he had been using to compensate for his broken toe. Stopping would have ensured he failed the course. At the age of 35, it was doubtful hed get the chance again to become an officer.
Determined that his entire platoon would finish the hike, Semrau carried and dragged Birtles on his shoulder, on his back and eventually along the ground,
If he hadnt done that, I wouldnt be in the career that I am right now, Birtles said. I know that maybe that doesnt mean much to people, but that had real impacts for me. It let me have a real career. It let me buy my first home. I married my wife. Were about to have our first baby. And I owe some of those things at least in part to the help that Rob gave me.
For his leadership, selflessness and spirit, Semrau was presented with the Royal Canadian Legions plaque for comradeship on Dec. 14, 2005, an awarded voted on by the officer cadets in his platoon.
It was unanimous. Everybody knew that he was the guy, that he was it, . Everybody felt the same way about himthankful that he was there and thankful he was in our platoon, said Durdle.
Seven months of French-language training followed the officer cadet course. Thats when Birtles really got to know and respect Semrau for his maturity, focus and devotion. , he said.
He was always very mindful of his wife and his family back home, and why he was doing what he was doing, why he was there, he said.
When others would go to bars, drinking and sometimes falling into the arms of other lonely soldiers, Semrau stayed behind. Amelie Lapierre, his long-time girlfriend and new ly wed wife, was always at the front of his mind, his fellow soldiers said.
She was the love of his life. They were high school sweethearts. It was just a story from a movie. He loved her, said Durdle.
The two now live in Pembroke, Ont., near Petawawa, where Lapierre teaches kindergarten. Their first daughter, Camea Michelle, was joined by Chloe, born April 15, during a short break in his court martial.
While Semrau has never been far from the headlines since he was charged in 2009, his legal ordeal has not diminished him in the eyes of his fellow soldiers back in Petawawa.
Hes not just any soldier. Hes one of the best out there, so this kind of challenge that hes facing now is pretty significant and hes facing it with a lot of dignity and a lot of strength, said Capt. Geoff Haskell, a Petawawa-based soldier two months into a six-month deployment to Kandahar.
Being in the infantry, you face a lot of hardships, a lot of extremely stressful situations, so hes inherently trained to deal with this kind of pressure.
His comrades, friends and family, though, struggled with are having a difficult time processing the possibility that the man they know will face years in jail and a dishonourable discharge from a job that he has carried out with such honour.
The second I read about this I just knew in my heart that no matter what evidence comes out, no matter what comes of this as a verdict, he did what was right, and theres no question in my mind about that, said Durdle.
Theres nothing else thats even an option for him.
Judge gives instructions to jury in Robert Semrau court martial
July 17, 2010
GATINEAU, QUE. The fate of a Canadian Forces captain charged in a battlefield murder in Afghanistan will soon be in the hands of a jury of his uniformed peers.
As the historic murder court martial entered its final phase, the four-member military panel received its final legal instructions Saturday in the case of Capt. Robert Semrau, 36, charged with second-degree murder in the October 2008 shooting death of an injured Taliban fighter in the southern Afghanistan province of Helmand.
Military Judge Lt.-Col. Jean-Guy Perron took more than four hours to deliver his final charge, telling the jurors that Semrau is to be presumed innocent, and that the prosecution bears the burden of proving his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Semrau never testified, and his lawyer presented no evidence in a trial that spanned four months. And Perron told the jury the accused man was under no obligation to do so.
After Perron finished reading 84 pages of legal instructions, the court adjourned briefly.
The jury will likely begin deliberations sometime later Saturday afternoon, and no one knows for certain when they will reach a verdict. Under law, their deliberations will remain forever secret.
The trial has heard evidence that Semrau told fellow officers after the shooting that he simply wanted to put a wounded and dying enemy fighter out of his misery.
This dramatic legal-military saga began on Oct. 19, 2008 on a dusty battlefield in the Taliban-infested Helmand province, just west of Kandahar, the province where most of Canada's soldiers are stationed.
Semrau was part of a team of Canadian Forces mentors to the Afghanistan National Army.
Following an intense fire fight that pitted Canadian and Afghan forces against the Taliban, an insurgent lay on the verge of death. The trial has been told that Semrau fired two rounds from his rifle into the dying man.
An Afghan National Army captain, who was on the patrol with Semrau, has testified the Taliban fighter was 98 per cent dead when he was found.
The insurgent had been strafed by a U.S. helicopter gunship and witnesses have described serious injuries, including a severed leg, and a gaping hole in his abdomen.
In all, Semrau faces four charges two under the Criminal Code and two under the National Defence Act but the most serious is second-degree murder, which carries a mandatory life sentence with no parole eligibility for 10 years.
If the jury acquits him of second-degree murder, it will consider whether he is guilty of attempted murder.
In addition, Semrau faces two charges under the National Defence Act: that he behaved in a disgraceful manner and that he was negligent in performing his duty.
It is not enough for you to find Capt. Semrau is probably guilty, Perron said in his final charge. Likely guilt is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
In painstaking detail, Perron reviewed key evidence of all 12 prosecution witnesses and laid out the legal questions the jury must consider and the burden of proof the prosecution must meet.
Based on Perron's instructions, the jury could acquit Semrau of the most serious charge second-degree murder if it finds a reasonable doubt that his decision to fire two rounds into an already badly-wounded insurgent actually contributed to his death.
The fact that no body has been found is an important factor, Perron said, but added that the prosecution does not have to provide a corpse to prove the offence.
Semrau's lawyer has argued that the prosecution did not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt and must therefore acquit his client.
The prosecution has argued that there was no doubt Semrau fired the fatal two rounds, and that the evidence of other witnesses shows the captain made a number of self-incriminating statements.
Semrau is a married father of two girls and had a spotless record with the British and Canadian militaries.
He was joined in court by his wife, Amelie, and his older brother, Bill, who came from Western Canada.
'I was rooting for this young captain'
July 19, 2010
When Canadian Forces Capt. Robert Semrau was acquitted Monday in the mercy killing of a wounded Taliban soldier in Afghanistan, Frank Gavin was sitting at home in Welland, Ont., quietly cheering.
I was rooting for this young captain, says Gavin. Im really happy that he beat the rap.
He was a brilliant soldier. He fought in the parachute regiment in England and then he came back to Canada and he joined the RCR (Royal Canadian Regiment). He looked the part of a soldier.
But it wasnt merely Semraus professionalism that Gavin admired. He also had every reason to sympathize with what Semrau was alleged to have done in putting a mortally wounded soldier out of his misery.
Nearly a half-century earlier, Gavin had seen almost the same scene take place on the battlefield in Korea, and no charges were ever laid.
I was only a kid, said Gavin, now 78, who was then a private with the Royal Canadian Regiment. But I thought it was the greatest thing that ever happened, the poor man was suffering so bad.
In August 1951, about 1,500 Canadian soldiers had been sent out on a three-day patrol. There was a bit of a lull in the action, says Gavin. We wanted to find out what was going on with the Chinese.
So they crossed the Imjin River in rubber boats and soon enough found themselves under heavy fire, which they managed to withstand.
The next morning, we went out again, and we come under fire, 7, 8 oclock in the morning, recalls Gavin. Our officer came out and said we had to fix bayonets. I said, bayonets? That went out in 1914.
I was on the Bren (machine) gun and all the boys fixed their bayonets. We never really used them, except for opening tin cans, and they were rusty. Under the Geneva Convention, if youre caught with a rusty bayonet, its game over for you.
The Canadians nevertheless charged uphill, suffered three or four casualties that Gavin could see, and eventually came upon a big Chinese soldier, dug in with a machine gun. They threw a grenade, which ripped apart his legs and stomach.
But the enemy soldier, despite being mortally wounded, still tried to cock his machine gun again, going through the motions as if on instinct.
Our officer Im not going to name names he walked up with a 9 mm (pistol) and he fired in the back of his head.
The guy kind of blinked a little bit and then went through the (cocking) action again. So my corporal, he ran up with a .303 (rifle) and put a bullet in his head and killed him. He killed him because he was going to die anyway.
If you had a surgeon with you and all the equipment, maybe you could have saved his life.
But with no such luxury available, Gavin says the unwritten code of professional soldiers simply kicked in.
Im sure it happened in the Second World War and the First World War and I know it happened in Korea.
If Gavin were still a soldier, mortally wounded on the battlefield, would he want an enemy soldier to end his life rather than let him suffer a long and painful death?
If I had lost a limb or both limbs, or whatever, yes I would. Its a sad thing to say in any war, but its a fact of life.
Capt. Robert Semrau found not guilty of murder
July 19, 2010
Richard J. Brennan
PHOTO: Captain Robert Semrau leaves his military tribunal with his wife Amelie Lapierre-Semrau in Gatineau, Quebec July 19, 2010.
GATINEAUCapt. Robert Semrau is the first soldier in Canadian history to be found guilty of shooting a wounded, unarmed combatant on a battlefield.
While a four-person military judicial panel found the 36-year army captain guilty Monday under the National Defence Act of disgraceful conduct resulting from the Afghan shooting, he was found not guilty of second-degree murder, attempted murder and negligent performance of duty.
He faces up to fives years in prison for the lesser charge, and most likely a discharge from the armed forces. Sentencing is schedule for Monday.
For an officer to be convicted of . . . disgraceful conduct is for all intents and purposes a career-ender, said Stuart Hendin, a University of Ottawa expert on armed conflict and human rights lawyer who participated in the Somalia inquiry.
Even so, Semraus brother Bill Semrau said the family was disappointed at the one finding of guilty. He thanked the public for its overwhelming support during the lengthy trial and lead-up.
As a family. . . we always believed that my brother did nothing wrong and we put our faith in the military justice system and hoped they would find the same thing, he told reporters following the verdict.
Semrau said thousands of people from Canada and around the world have added their voices of support for Robert by phone or on a special Facebook site calling for his freedom. The support we have received from the public is fantastic, he said.
As has become a matter of course, Semrau arrived with his wife Amelie Lapierre-Semrau to hear the verdict in a hearing room in a nondescript government complex. The two left without saying a word.
The verdict was delivered in a monotone voice by lead panelist Commodore Laurence Hickey.
Semrau betrayed no emotion as the decision was read.
The charge of disgraceful conduct was for shooting and wounding an unarmed person . . . thats why he was found guilty of that offence, Lt.-Col. Mario Leveillée, a member of the prosecution team, told reporters.
I think its the first time its ever happened.
Leveillée explained the burden of proof with a second-degree murder charge is that a person dies as a result and they (the panel) may have had a reasonable doubt about this, especially since the body was not recovered.
The members of the military jury faced a daunting task to peer through the fog of war and pass judgment on a battlefield shooting.
The verdict caps a drama that began on a dusty battlefield in southern Afghanistan on Oct. 19, 2008. Semrau was part of a team of Canadian Forces mentors to the Afghanistan National Army in Helmand province in the southern region of the country.
An Apache helicopter had attacked nearby Taliban insurgents, firing a devastating volley of shots that blasted off an insurgents leg, almost severed his other one and severely wounded him in the abdomen.
An Afghan interpreter assigned to the Canadian team identified only as Max by court order testified that the severely wounded insurgent was moving before Semrau fired a single round from his assault rifle into the mans head.
Another soldier with the patrol testified that he saw Semrau standing over the insurgent with his rifle pointed at his chest seconds after two quick shots were fired. The trial heard also evidence that Semrau told fellow officers after the shooting that he simply wanted to put a wounded and dying enemy fighter out of his misery.
While Semrau was cleared of murder, his conviction on charge of disgraceful conduct will send a powerful signal to soldiers about their actions on the battlefield, said Michel Drapeau, an Ottawa lawyer and a retired colonel.
Some people may feel hes getting away with it. Well, hes not, he said in an interview.
He may not have been found guilty of murder but its a question of nuances here. His conduct has been found to be reprehensible and judged by his peers, found to be disgraceful, Drapeau said.
I think its going to send a sobering message to this generation of soldiers that the Canadian Forces carries with them the entire body of laws that applies to Canadians . . . and youll be held to account for what you do.
This will provide added stress to the soldiers in the battlefield because its a precedent, somebody being charged for actions on the battlefield against an enemy combatant.
He said the notion of a mercy killing cheapens the role and training of a professional soldier and flies in the face of human rights conventions governing treatment of injured soldiers.
Drapeau echoed other experts who viewed Semraus conviction on a murder charge as a long shot, given that the body of the insurgent was never recovered.
I never believed from the get-go that you could prove that beyond a reasonable doubt so for that reason the verdict is not surprising, Drapeau said.
International law expert Michael Byers called the jurys finding appropriate.
There is no reason to believe that Capt. Semrau was acting maliciously, or that the insurgent would have survived if medical assistance had been called, said Byers, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law at the University of British Columbia.
What matters here is that Captain Semrau disregarded the rules of international humanitarian law, in which all our soldiers are schooled, and chose instead to follow his own moral code, he said in an email.
Professional militaries cannot tolerate this kind of freelancing, since it undermines discipline, consistency, and the effectiveness of the team.
Alain Pellerin, of the Ottawa-based Conference of Defence Associations, said the verdict should be well-received in the ranks of the armed forces.
In the army, there are those that are familiar with the context of the war in Afghanistan. They will feel it was the right decision. Not an easy one, Pellerin said.
The panel began their deliberations Saturday afternoon after hearing from military Judge Lt.-Col. Jean-Guy Perron that Semrau was to be presumed innocent, and that the prosecution bore the burden of proving his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Semrau never testified in the three months of hearings and his lawyers never called any witnesses, believing that the case against the Moose Jaw, Sask., native was fraught with flimsy evidence.
Perron is to hear a Charter challenge Tuesday from defence counsel questioning the constitutionality of the sentencing regime, Leveillée said.
Semrau sentencing to follow ruling on whether military law violates Charter
July 20, 2010
GATINEAU, QUE.A judge is to rule Monday on whether the militarys sentencing provisions violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
After that, the military court will move on to what sentence a Canadian Forces captain should receive for shooting an unarmed and wounded Afghan insurgent.
Robert Semrau was charged with second-degree and attempted murder and two breaches of the National Defence Act for the October 2008 incident.
He was found guilty only of the military charge of disgraceful conduct and could face up to five years in prison under military law.
Early in his case, his lawyers argued that punishments for National Defence Act convictions were too narrow and restricted his Charter rights.
A decision had been delayed until Semraus court martial was over.
Toronto Star Editorial:
Justice in Robert Semrau case
July 21, 2010
It was a painful verdict for Captain Robert Semrau, for the military judicial panel that convicted him, and for the Canadians who followed the hearings. Semraus landmark conviction for disgraceful conduct, after shooting an unarmed but grievously wounded Afghan militant, has likely closed a once-promising career.
It also aroused strong emotions in Canadians torn between their loyalty to troops fighting a bruising battle in Afghanistan and their doubts about the point of a war that often appears to cause more harm than good.
To many, the shooting was a mercy killing, in line with an unwritten code of honor that Semrau may well have felt he was following. But it contravened international humanitarian law, a universal framework for conduct of war. The verdict, while avoiding a judgment of murder, sends a signal that Canadas forces observe the rule of law. Its relative speed and clarity averts the kind of drawn-out scandal that followed reports of abuse in Somalia in 1993 and shook national confidence in the military.
The conviction also sends an important message to the Afghan government, which has called for accountability of the Western troops that are serving on its soil. Although the dead Afghan was not an innocent civilian, if Semrau had been exonerated it would have appeared that Canada was applying a double standard -- demanding that Afghans observe the law while our own forces violate it when convenient. This point was made sharper because Semrau was a mentor to Afghan trainees.
Rising civilian casualties in Afghanistan have turned people away from Western forces and convinced them that Afghan lives mean little to foreigners, although many of the deaths were caused by militants. The military panels decision in the Semrau case, while bitterly sad for a dedicated soldier, ensures that justice is not only done but seen to be done.
Reader's response to Toronto Star's editorial:
Semraus position untenable
July 22, 2010
Re: Justice in Semrau case, Editorial July 21
Captain Robert Semrau has been found guilty of discreditable conduct. But the guilt, surely, lies with the Canadian government, which put him in an untenable position. According to the rules of war, enemy prisoners are to be afforded security, food and medical attention on the same basis as ones own troops. Presumably, this means that Semrau should have provided medical evacuation for the dying Taliban fighter.
Was this really possible? And would the casualty then have been flown to a NATO military hospital? Not likely. Even taking prisoners is a real problem for our troops. We have no detention facilities and if our people hand them over to the Afghans they face criticism for what might happen to them.
Perhaps the rules of engagement are properly set out for our troops, but from this distance it seems we are putting our young men and women in an impossible position.
John Owen, Mississauga
Semrau was an amazing leader, private testifies
July 26, 2010
Richard J. Brennan
PHOTO: Capt. Robert Semrau arrives to court for the start of sentencing argument in his court martial in Gatineau. Que., on Monday July 26, 2010.
Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS
GATINEAUCapt. Robert Semrau was an amazing leader who repeatedly risked his life for his soldiers while mortars rained down in Afghanistan, a Canadian army private told a military court martial.
Tributes from Pte. Joseph Villeneuve, who said he owed Semrau his life, and senior officers rounded out the contradiction of an otherwise top notch soldier convicted of disgraceful conduct for shooting a severely wounded unarmed Afghan insurgent.
While men who served with Semrau testified before the sentencing hearing that they would gladly do so again, the military brass through Brig.-Gen. Denis Thompson made it clear they want Semrau gone from the armed forces.
From my experience he is a great leader and a great man, said Villeneuve, recalling how Semrau risked his life several times to provide first aid to Afghan National Army soldiers who were part of a mentoring program led by the Canadian armed forces.
Capt. Semrau was up to his elbows in blood just helping out. After everything was said and done he kept checking the wounded to make sure they were okay, he said.
Canadas first soldier to be found guilty of a battlefield shooting was cleared last week of secondary-degree murder, attempted murder and negligent performance of duty, but he still faces prison time for his disgraceful conduct conviction.
Villeneuve testified that had it not been for Semrau ordering him to duck behind a vehicle when a mortar round came screaming in he may have been killed or injured. He saved my life right there, he testified
Others were not so lucky when about five or six mortar rounds poured into the forward operating base. Villeneuve described Semrau conduct that day at Mushan and others as commendable, he was amazing. He did his job to a T, and above and beyond.
Thompson, former Task Force Afghanistan commander and now chief of land operations for the Canadian military, told the hearing that Semrau deserved to be thrown out of the military to send other soldiers the message they cant take the law into their own hands.
Thompson, who said he was speaking for the military chain of command, said Semraus conduct was completely unacceptable because he shot the Taliban fighter rather than administer first aid.
It was strongly suggested during trial that it was a mercy killing, although Semrau never testified in his own defence.
Thompson described the shooting as a blow to the military and urged a sentence sufficient enough to send the right message.
This particular conduct . . . is such a blow to the credibility of the institution that as a deterrent I dont believe we have any other option than to release him from service, he said.
We need to ensure the health of the institution and that all those who are members of it follow the rules as the people of Canada expect them to.
Court martial judge Col. Jean-Guy Perron is to hear final sentencing arguments from defence and prosecution lawyers Tuesday and may not hand down his decision until Wednesday.
The National Defence Act states that a person convicted on disgraceful conduct can be sentenced to prison time but other options include dismissal with disgrace from the armed forces, simple dismissal, reduction of rank, forfeiture of seniority, severe reprimand and or simple reprimand.
The sentence will end a drama that began on a dusty battlefield in southern Afghanistan on Oct. 19, 2008. Semrau was part of a team of Canadian Forces mentors to the Afghanistan National Army in Helmand province in the southern region of the country.
An Apache helicopter had attacked nearby Taliban insurgents, firing a devastating volley of shots that blasted off an insurgents leg, almost severed his other one and severely wounded him in the abdomen.
An Afghan interpreter assigned to the Canadian team testified the severely wounded insurgent was moving before Semrau fired a single round from his assault rifle into the mans head.
Another soldier testified he saw Semrau standing over the insurgent with his rifle pointed at his chest seconds after two quick shots were fired. The trial heard also evidence that Semrau told fellow officers after the shooting that he simply wanted to put a wounded and dying enemy fighter out of his misery. The body was never recovered.
What we would expect from a soldier in this particular theatre of operation . . . is they first win the fight, provide first aid to all injured . . . and organize medical evacuation, Thompson testified.
Thompson said pumping two rounds into an injured, unarmed, alive combatant is clearly not the sort of conduct we condone as part of the chain of command.
Maj. Cayle Oberwarth, who served with Semrau in Afghanistan, said the 36-year-old captain showed tremendous courage on more than one occasion and offered that Semrau was a good man with a good heart.
And as far as I am concerned everything that he has been found guilty of is based on speculation, Oberwarth told the hearing.