The first of a group of Marines who were caught on tape allegedly urinated on the corpses of several Taliban fighters have been given what's known as "non-judicial administrative punishments," the Marine Corps said today.
The Corps did not specify exactly how the three Marines had been punished, but generally non-judicial administrative punishments can include, among other things, a reprimand, reductions in rank, forfeiting pay, extra duties or being restricted to a military base.
More Marines are believed to be involved in the incident and the service said in a statement that further punishments will be announced at a future date.
A video posted on the internet in January appeared to have been taken in Afghanistan and showed four Marines urinating on the corpses of three Afghan men -- one of the Marines chuckling as they do so. In the background, a voice could be heard saying, "Have a nice day, buddy."
The video drew instant condemnation from top Pentagon officials who feared that it would lead to a backlash against American troops serving in Afghanistan.
The three unidentified enlisted Marines who received the administrative punishments are all non-commissioned officers. The Marines are not being identified because the punishments are administrative.
Lt. Gen. Richard Mills, the Deputy Commandant for Combat Development and Integration, was the general officer who determined the punishments announced today. A press release from Marine Corps Combat Development Command says, "We hold Marines to a high standard of ethical behavior. The Marine Corps takes misconduct by Marines very seriously and is committed to holding accountable those who are responsible."
Two of Marines pleaded guilty to having violated a general order for "wrongfully posing for an unofficial photograph with human casualties." One of them pleaded guilty to urinating on the corpse of a Taliban fighter and another to having recorded the video.
The third Marine, the highest ranking among the three NCO's, pleaded guilty to having "failed to report the mistreatment of human casualties by other Marines" and for having made a false statement about his knowledge of the event.
The press release announcing the punishments indicated further punishments are likely as "disciplinary actions against other Marines involved in the incident will be announced at a later date."
No additional details about the investigation into other Marines involved in the incident were not being provided "in order to preserve the integrity of the investigations, and to ensure fair and impartial legal proceedings in the future," the statement said.
The three Marines who received non-judicial punishments were all members of Third Battalion, Second Marine Regiment (3/2) or served in units that were attached to 3/2 during their deployment. The battalion is based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
Shortly after the video appeared online, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos initiated a criminal investigation to authenticate the video. He also commissioned a command investigation by a three star general to determine what factors may have led to the recording of the video. Both investigations were concluded in March.
Based on the information gleaned from the command investigation, Mills ordered a further inquiry was ordered into possible misconduct by members of the unit involved in the incident beyond those depicted in the video. That investigation was completed in June.
Non-judicial administrative punishments were also expected to be announced Monday in another high-profile incident in Afghanistan earlier this year that sparked deadly protests there. Six Army soldiers are expected to receive administrative punishments for the burning of Korans and other religious materials that had been taken from a prison library and designated for incineration.