In an open letter to the Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, Ms. Nancy Parrish, president of Protect our Defenders and Mr. Greg Jacob, policy director of Service Women’s Action Network, call for dramatic procedural changes in how the military disposes of sexual assault allegations.
Although the letter was addressed to the Secretary, the proposals would require substantial statutory changes, and would functionally remove commanders from their role as convening authority in sexual assault cases. Instead of having commanders determine the proper disposition of cases, Ms. Parrish and Mr. Jacob urge that “impartial experts” be given the task:
The great deference afforded to command discretion, sets up a dynamic fraught with conflict of interest and potential for abuse of power.
Some are now arguing that base commanders are yielding to political pressure and are automatically referring cases to the UCMJ. Although we have not seen credible data to support this assertion, this claim validates what we are advocating: that the authority to adjudicate cases of sexual assault and rape be given to impartial experts to determine the path of these cases and care of the victims.
In order to solve this problem, we believe that DoD must take the prosecution, reporting, oversight, investigation, and victim care of sexual assaults out of the hands of the normal chain of command and place the jurisdiction in the hands of an impartial office staffed by experts – both military and civilian.
The entire letter can be found here.