© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) walks throughout a break within the impeachment trial of U.S. President Donald Trump continues in Washington, U.S., January 24, 2020. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Picture
By Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Protection Secretary Lloyd Austin, in a serious break from his predecessors, stated on Tuesday that he backed eradicating the prosecution of sexual assault and different associated crimes from the navy’s chain of command.
Advocates and lawmakers have been calling for years for the navy commanders to be taken out of the decision-making course of in relation to prosecuting sexual assault circumstances, arguing that they’re inclined to miss the difficulty.
Sexual assault and harassment within the U.S. navy is basically underreported and the Pentagon’s dealing with of it has come underneath renewed scrutiny.
“We are going to work with Congress to amend the Uniform Code of Army Justice, eradicating the prosecution of sexual assaults and associated crimes from the navy chain of command,” Austin stated in a press release, turning into the primary protection secretary to help such a transfer.
Austin stated he additionally backed eradicating different associated crimes, reminiscent of home violence, from the navy chain of command.
He stated he would transient President Joe Biden on the advice from an unbiased fee on sexual assault established by the Pentagon. The panel made the suggestions that Austin endorsed.
“As I made clear on my first full day in workplace, it is a management concern. And we’ll lead. Our individuals rely on it. They deserve nothing much less,” Austin stated.
There are nonetheless questions on what exactly Austin means by working with Congress to make adjustments and the way lengthy it might take to take away the circumstances from the chain of command with out laws forcing it.
“It’s a large step ahead however we nonetheless have a methods to go,” stated Don Christensen, president of the Defend Our Defenders advocacy group.
A 2018 Pentagon survey estimated that 20,500 female and male service members skilled some type of sexual assault that 12 months.
Senior navy officers, together with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Employees, Military Basic Mark Milley, have acknowledged failings in addressing sexual assault within the ranks.
However they’ve stopped wanting endorsing strikes to take away the prosecution of such circumstances from navy commanders and argue that preserving commanders’ authority over prosecutions is important to sustaining self-discipline.
Austin’s assertion was issued on the identical day a senior lawmaker launched letters from members of the Pentagon’s high brass through which they voiced deep concern over laws supported by most U.S. senators that may overhaul the navy justice system for crimes like sexual assault.
Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has spearheaded the invoice to take away navy commanders from selections on pursuing sexual assault circumstances, however her invoice would additionally do the identical for different main crimes, turning such selections over to educated prosecutors.
Of their letters, the navy chiefs of the completely different providers stated that Gillibrand’s invoice was too broad and will have an effect on readiness, belief and unit cohesion.
The invoice, which has 64 co-sponsors, is being blocked from consideration on the ground of the Senate by the highest Democrat and Republican on the Senate Armed Providers Committee.
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