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The Sunday Times
Oct. 16, 2005
Flight-Lieutenant Malcolm Kendall-Smith is to be court-martialled for “refusing to obey a lawful command” after he told his commanding officer that he would not go to Basra.
Kendall-Smith, 37, unit medical officer for RAF Kinloss in Morayshire, has been decorated for his role in support of military operations in Afghanistan and for two previous tours in support of the RAF in Iraq.
However, after studying the legal position, including the advice of Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, he decided this year that the war was unlawful and it would therefore be wrong for him to return.
A central part of Kendall-Smith’s legal case will be the manual of RAF law which states that a serving officer is justified in refusing to obey a command if it is illegal. His lawyers will also argue that his commission, granted by the Queen, requires him to act according to “the rules and discipline of war”.
I noted that the Uniform Code of Military Justice requires that all military personnel obey lawful orders. Article 92 of the UCMJ says, "A general order or regulation is lawful unless it is contrary to the Constitution, the laws of the United States...." Both the Nuremberg Principles and the Army Field Manual create a duty to disobey unlawful orders. Article 509 of Field Manual 27-10, codifying another Nuremberg Principle, specifies that "following superior orders" is not a defense to the commission of war crimes, unless the accused "did not know and could not reasonably have been expected to know that the act ordered was unlawful."