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Panel: Commanders Should Keep Sex Assault Courts-martial Authority

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2014 – The independent Response Systems to Adult Sexual Assault Crimes Panel has accepted a subcommittee recommendation that senior military commanders retain authority for referring these crimes to courts-martial.

DOD officials have long maintained that the authority is needed to maintain good order and discipline, and that commanders will be integral to ending sexual assault in the ranks.

The Role of the Commander Subcommittee took an in-depth look at the issue before coming up with the recommendation. One member of the subcommittee -- University of California Professor Elizabeth Hillman -- dissented, but the full panel voted to accept the recommendations 7-2.

“Based on all information considered to this point, a strong majority of the subcommittee members agrees the evidence does not support a conclusion that removing the authority to convene courts-martial from senior commanders will reduce the incidence of sexual assault or increase reporting of sexual assaults in the armed forces,” Judge Barbara S. Jones, the chair of the Role of the Commander Subcommittee, wrote in a letter released today.

Jones went on to say that evidence does not support the conclusion that removing commanders from the process will increase victims’ confidence in the system.

The conclusion of the panel is that commanders “must play a central role in preventing sexual assault by establishing command climates that ensure subordinates are trained in and embrace their moral and legal obligations, and by emphasizing the role of accountability at all levels of the organization.”

The panel also noted that victims of sexual assault have other channels outside the chain of command.

“Military personnel in the United States may always call civilian authorities, healthcare professionals or other civilian agencies to report a sexual assault,” the memorandum states.

In addition to Jones and Hillman, the other members of the Role of the Commander subcommitteel are: Elizabeth Holtzman, retired Army Gen. Carter Ham, retired Navy Vice Adm. James Houck, retired Army Maj. Gen. John Altenburg, South Texas University Professor Geoffrey Corn, Air Force Col. Lisa Turner and Joye Frost.

 

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneAFPS)

 

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Related Sites:
Special Report: Sexual Assault Awareness & Prevention


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