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Senators Demand Reform In Handling Of Military Sexual Assault Cases

Manuel Balce Ceneta

A group of bipartisan U.S. senators wants to take military sexual assault cases away from high ranking military officers after a new report showed that the officers assigned to those cases were more likely to close them than preside over them fairly. The senators say there’s a need for more neutrality in the process.  

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.) office released the report, which looked at 329 sexual assault cases from the Department of Defense.

Gillibrand says the report found that among other things, some commanders would choose to discharge a suspect rather than move forward with a court martial, and other commanders would completely ignore the sex assault accusations.

“What upsets me the most is that the military have not created a justice system worthy of the support of men and women who will sacrifice their lives for this country. It is a system that is rife with bias, lack of transparency and no accountability.”

Gillibrand spoke at a press conference in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. She’s a ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Personnel. Two years ago she tried and failed to get a bill passed in the Senate that would have removed military commanders from the process.  

This week’s report sparked Gillibrand, Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa and a bipartisan coalition of five other senators to push again for the Military Justice Improvement Act to change how the military justice system deals with sexual assault.  

This bill would take the decision-making power away from the commanders and give it to independent military trial lawyers with extensive litigation experience.

Ann is an editor and senior content producer with WSHU, including founding producer of the midday talk show, The Full Story.