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Tomasz Borysiewicz

20.07.2016
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facts

Tomasz Borysiewicz was a sergeant and Platoon commander from the 18th Airborne-Assault battalion, which was part of the Polish Military Contingent taking part in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2014.

On 16 August 2007, Borysiewicz and his patrol were allegedly responsible for an attack on the village of Nangar Khel, in eastern Afghanistan. They reportedly fired 26 rounds of mortar shells into the village, one of which exploded inside a compound where a wedding party was taking place. The attack resulted in the killing of eight civilians, including children and women. Six were killed immediately while two more died from their injuries at the hospital. Two soldiers, who later served as witnesses for the prosecution, refused to follow the order and requested the base to stop the attack on the wedding party. The Polish attack on Nangar Khel took place nonetheless.

The soldiers had allegedly been sent to the village of Nangar Khel as a retaliation for the injuries suffered few hours earlier by another group of Polish soldiers after their vehicule hit a Taliban mine outside the village.

On 13 November 2007, Borysiewicz and six other soldiers were arrested and brought to a detention centre. The other soldiers were Captain C. Olgierda, Lieutenant Colonel Luke Bywalec, Warrant officer Andrzej Osiecki and Privates Jacka Janika, Roberta Boksy and Damian Ligocki. The senior officers were released in May and the others in June 2008.

Legal Procedure

On 13 November 2007, the seven soldiers were arrested and brought to a detention centre. The senior officers were released in May and the others in June 2008.

Borysiewicz was indicted on 15 November 2007 and charged with murder and the war crime of unlawfully targeting civilians as reprisal. He pleaded not guilty and blamed the attack on faulty weaponry.

The trial in first instance against the seven Polish soldiers started on 3 February 2009 before the Warsaw Military District Court. Borysiewicz and the six other accused were acquitted on 1 June 2011 for lack of evidence of deliberate killing.

On 14 March 2012 the Military Supreme Court overturned the first instance decision and ordered a re-trial for Borysiewicz, Bywalec, Osiecki and Ligocki after finding their testimonies inconsistent. The Court argued that the men had given conflicting accounts of why the village was attacked: at times they said they were responding to Taliban fire, at others they said they were following orders or that their ammunition was faulty.

On 19 March 2015, the Military District Court in Warsaw found the four soldiers guilty of failing to carry out a military order. Borysiewicz was additionally found guilty of using means of warfare inconsistent with the rules implemented by the Polish military contingent in Afghanistan. He was sentenced to a suspended two years term. All four soldiers were however cleared of the war crimes charges brought by the Prosecutor for lack of convincing proof that the soldiers’ actions were deliberate. The Court ruled that the shooting of the village was not on purpose, neither was the killing of the civilians.

Both the Prosecutor and the defendants appealed the Court’s decision, but the Military Chamber of the Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the first instance Court on 17 February 2016.

 

Highlights

It is the first time that the Polish Courts held war crimes trials against Polish soldiers.

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