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  • 191. The Relevance of Superior Orders to The Crime of Murder

The Relevance of Superior Orders to The Crime of Murder

  • Category(s): Death Penalty Essays
  • Created on : 28 May 2015
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  • Author: Richard Michael Lamb


We heed the Word of the indivisible Trinity (three in one) by listening to that Word in our hearts. To ignore that voice will be tantamount to sacrilege, by assuming we know better than this Holy Trinity so wise and noble.

1. Starting Point

Superior orders is recognised by the English criminal law of homicide as a defence separate and apart from duress. The defence of superior orders is essential to the combatant in the military scenario of the officers commanding the soldiers to fire on the enemy or rioting civilians. e.g. the Bloody Sunday Irish unrest where no soldiers or junior officers were charged with murders arising out of that violent disorder at the end of January 1972 on the Bogside.

Some say the officers did not order their soldiers to fire. Fire they did as thirteen civilians on the streets were shot and died. The order to fire may not have come from commissioned officers but NCO’s. The privates and corporals who fired and inflicted the civilian casualties that day claimed, or would have claimed in any later trial, they were acting under orders. It is not surprising our Law Officers: Sir Peter Rawlinson QC and Sir Michael Havers QC wisely took the decision not to prosecute those Private soldiers and their junior officers and NCO’s. The deafening noise of the riot and the terrible fear exerted upon the English soldiery by the tension and atmosphere, itself engendered by these Nationalist demonstrators who were concealing gunmen either in fact or potentially, made prosecutions of our military personnel simply unsustainable.

At bottom you do not accuse the law enforcer particularly English Soldiers in 1972 in Northern Ireland, and Sir Peter and Sir Michael understood this judgement and choice implicitly. These paratroops were under orders in every sense, but the chain of command may have become disjointed in all the fury. These English troops knew when they entered into the Bogside that Sunday they would have to fire their rifles in anger in all realism.

That attitude was never contradicted by those ordering them onto the streets of Londonderry, be they senior or junior Army officers. I have no hesitation in saying those paratroops were under superior orders in causing those thirteen civilian dead. Let us not indulge in pedantic and sophistry and accept the reality of the Bogside on that fateful Sunday in Late January 1972: Those orders excused the deaths.

2. Other Examples – The German Experience

German Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe and SS Officers in WWII have been convicted of atrocities e.g. The Ardeatine Cave Massacre near Rome ordered by Hitler as a reprisal against Italian civilians (over 100 persons) in 1944. I draw the distinction between army Officers and civilian agents of genocide e.g. Klaus Barbie in France 1943-45. Those German Generals and officers, such as Kesselring, were tried at Nuremberg and executed for atrocities throughout Italy or other occupied territories. Jodl and Keitel, the two most senior German Generals in Hitler’s lair, who directed all operations in the West, the East, the Balkans and Italy were both condemned to death and executed at Nuremberg for waging a worldwide aggressive war. Even they might have pleaded they were following the Fuhrer’s Orders. That plea did not avail any of these prosecuted Generals and officers in Hitler’s armies.

Why not? They had committed mass murder and /or crimes against humanity. Superior Orders could not excuse such conduct. So these Trials of International War Criminals by those war Crime Courts ruled. One does not weep a tear for Kesselring who was the supreme Field General of Germany in Italy 1944-45. He made himself “an arm” of Hitler’s brutal reprisal policy against the Italian people for the “provocation” caused by the Partisans against the German Wehrmacht in Italy 1944-45. The rot has to stop somewhere and Kesselring was a Field Marshal. The Nuremberg Judges were right to condemn him.

3. The Story Develops

Many war criminals on the German side were not tried because they were killed in action or the prosecutors at Nuremberg thought the evidence insufficient. The task of those prosecutors was gigantic. Klaus Barbie acting under Gestapo orders was not prosecuted until the 1990’2 I believe. He was convicted of genocide against French Jews by a French Criminal Court that had no death sentence armoury. Likewise German Criminal Courts have convicted aged ex-Wehrmacht officers of various atrocities: say the incident in Italy near Genoa in WWII 1944-45. Again those German Criminal Courts post-1990 had no death sentence powers.

Similarly Japanese WWII POW guards and Commandants were never sentenced to death by Japan’s own War Trial Courts, even though they may have admitted to those tribunals their brutality and inhumanity to our deceased POW’s who dies at their hands and orders.

4. What is the Outcome?

The message of all these cases is that, if the crime is so severe, then the trial court should have the full range of sentencing options, including Judicial executions for those who shelter behind superior orders in civil disorder, and wartime for such appalling acts of murder in cold blood and genocide. The superior orders defence has been raised and has been used in Bosnia in our times. Psychologically the officer and the soldier will try and rely on this excuse for cold blooded callous murder when accused. This must be rooted out once and for all.

The penalties available to the International Criminal Court in The Hague are paltry and risible. Only the England & Wales if the final sentence is reinstated and the USA Jurisdictions will have the impetus and confidence to restore order and the Death Sentence for War Criminals worldwide and whenever. This is God’s Law, I propose, for systematic killing ordered by superior officers without justification. There can be no excuse for that heinous policy of murder under orders, Barbie pursued extermination. God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are the justification for this sentence of death for the War Criminals I speak of. This Holy Trinity is the Highest authority imaginable. If you disobey the law of this Trinity by committing such war crimes, whether you be an officer or subordinate, you must in all justice and honour to that Holy Trinity be sentenced to death. What is the alternative? To make a mockery of our International Criminal Justice and give way to tinkering with the crime of multiple murders and to deface the solemn countenance of Christ’s visage of such sorrow.