Ms. magazine  -- more than a magazine a movement



feminist wire | daily newsbriefs


Hagel Calls for End to Overturning Convening Authority

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has called for termination of the ability of a commanding officer to overturn a court martial conviction, called "convening authority."

In an internal memo to the secretaries of the military services and other military senior officials, Hagel said, "We must ensure that our military justice system is fair, provides justice, and enhances good order and discipline. The actions directed by this memorandum seek to improve military justice and our ability to accomplish our mission."

In a public statement released by the Department of Defense, Hagel listed sexual assault in the military as a top priority and asked Congress to take the steps to reform the power of convening authority. He asked Congress to create change by "First, eliminating the discretion for a convening authority to change the findings of a court-martial, except for certain minor offenses that would not ordinarily warrant trial by court-martial. While convening authorities would no longer have the ability to dismiss charges for serious offenses like sexual assault, defendants would continue to have access to a robust system of appeal rights. Second, requiring the convening authority to explain in writing any changes made to court-martial sentences, as well as any changes to findings involving minor offenses. The intent is to ensure that convening authorities are required to justify - in an open, transparent, and recorded manner - any decision to modify a court martial sentence."

He continued "Despite the attention and efforts of senior leaders throughout the Department of Defense, it is clear the department still has much more work to do to fully address the problem of sexual assault in the ranks. This crime is damaging this institution. There are thousands of victims in the department, male and female, whose lives and careers have been upended, and that is unacceptable. The current situation should offend every single service member and civilian who, like me, is proud of their association with the United States military."

The issue gained national attention in March, when a Lieutenant General overturned a sexual assault conviction by jury of an air force service member. The Air Force fighter pilot was convicted in November for aggravated sexual assault by a jury of four colonels and a lieutenant colonel. He was dismissed from the Air Force and sentenced to one year in prison. Lieutenant General Craig Franklin overturned the jury conviction using "convening authority" - an absolute power of a single military supervisor to dismiss a jury decision as granted by Article 60 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ).

Media Resources: Department of Defense 4/8/2013; Huffington Post 4/8/2013; Feminist Newswire 3/6/2013

© Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms. magazine

If you liked this story, consider making a tax-deductible donation to support Ms. magazine.



Send to a Friend

More Feminist News

8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska. The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services. The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge. Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska. "By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read. "We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/27/2015 Los Angeles Mayor Announces Model Gender Equity Directive - On Women's Equality Day Eric Garcetti, the Mayor of Los Angeles, signed a progressive and inclusive executive directive to take a major step toward gender equity for the city and to be a model for other cities. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections. This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .