Afghanistan: Italian helicopter crew refused to fire at civilians

In an article entitled The truth about Sishawan, the Italian edition of the website PeaceReporter reported on 1 August 2008 on the cases of two Italian helicopter crew who refused to fire at civilians.

According to the report, on 9 July 2008 the two helicopter crew members helped in the evacuation of wounded soldiers, when fire was opened at them out of a building in which there were also civilians. The fire scratched the rudder of a Spanish helicopter, but did not cause serious damage. The two Italian helicopter pilots, Lieutenant Gabriele Franceso and airman Francesco Manco, came to the conclusion that firing at the buildings from where the hostile fire originated, and in which there were also many civilians, with the 20mm gun of the helicopter would certainly lead to the destruction of the building and loss of life of civilians. They therefore decided to disengange and returned to their base, much to the dislike of the Spanish command of the operation.

Following a complaint from the Spanish command to the Italian command about the behaviour of the two helicopter crew members were questioned by their commander, and responsed that they made the decision not to respond with fire in accordance with the rules of engagement. Although these rules allow to respond when attacked, but only if civilian casualties can be avoided with certainty.

No disciplinary action has been taken against the two crew members. However, they were sent to Celio military hospital for a few days, and later repatriated to their military base in Italy. But no disciplinary action does not mean that their refusal will not have long-term consequences on their career.