Monday, June 29, 2015

Crime and punishment in the National Guard

The NBC "News4 I-Team" in Washington, D.C has run this investigative piece about how sexual assault is dealt with in the National Guard when not in federal service (i.e., in title 32 status). Excerpt:
What happens to those accused of rape or sexual assault in the National Guard varies dramatically depending on what state you work in. 
Those who served in California or Idaho faced punishments including a court martial, incarceration and dishonorable discharge. But if you served in states including Alabama, New Jersey or West Virginia, you more likely ended up with a letter of reprimand, according to a groundbreaking survey compiled by the News4 I-Team.
Consider this dramatic graphic:

Punishments for Sex Assault

GOMOR or Letter of ReprimandDishonorable DischargeOther Type of DischargeGeneral DischargeOther Than Honorable DischargeAdministrative SeparationRemoval from AGR program/Federal...Bad Conduct DischargeDischarge for MisconductForced ResignationResignation in Lieu of Other Act...Forced RetirementOther ActionsFederal Discharge in Lieu of Oth...Federal Conviction for Lesser Of...Incarceration/ConfinementSeparation for Conduct AllegedArticle 15Reduction in RankBar Reenlistment

The power of ideas

Students of American military justice are well aware of Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which makes it an offense for officers to speak contemptuously of the President and other high officials. Comes now Colonel Bashiru Sahid Conteh, a retired officer of the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces, with a Facebook suggestion that African militaries show the same kind of restraint:
My dear brothers and sisters of our respective Armed Forces on our beloved Africa continent, Article 1 of the United States of America (USA) Constitutional Bill of Rights says:- “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech.” Within that right, the civilian may speak abusively of the President without getting into trouble, provided he does not threaten the President’s life.

Then Section 8 of the United States Constitution declares that the Congress shall “...make rules for the Government and regulation of the land and naval forces” and under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, these words restricting the rights to freedom of speech, appear:- “Any officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, Vice President.. shall be punished as a court martial may direct.”

Hmm for sure someone may ask why I am making reference to USA Constitution in dealing with issues of our beloved Continent?

My answer may be simply put this way: The US is one of the most democratic nation states on earth where everybody may be free to say anything he/she thinks, but there are still constitutional restrictions on public statements of their service personnel, especially against the political class, which I believe aims at making them to remain apolitical as long as they are in active service.

Ladies and gentlemen of our respective Armed Forces on the continent, for the respect and honour of our noble institutions, let’s have less to do with public political debates, no matter how it affects our emotions, ethnicity or region, in order to remain apolitical, a good quality of a professional Armed Force.

We are free to fully participate in our respective national politics after our retirement from active military service. May Lord God bless us all.

Covering the Supreme Court of Pakistan: "zero defects" journalism

In a disturbing footnote to the media coverage of the Supreme Court of Pakistan's pending cases on the validity of the 18th and 21st Amendments to the Constitution, consider this:
The Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights on Wednesday took serious notice of a news report published in various sections of the press referring to the Supreme Court stating “Trials by military courts in democracy is dictatorship” terming it totally baseless and contrary to the proceedings of the apex court.

In a statement issued by the ministry, it said, “Stern legal action will be taken against those who issued and published baseless and fabricated statements about the Supreme Court of Pakistan and its justices”.

Furthermore, the ministry clarified, “No such observation was made by the Supreme Court which equated the military courts’ trials to a dictatorship.”The news was published by sections of the press about the proceedings of the Supreme Court regarding hearing of petitions by a 17-member bench challenging passage of 21st Constitutional Amendment.

It is pertinent to mention here that a 17-member full bench of the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Nasirul Mulk also took notice of the news and issued notices to the relevant sections of the press. The bench also directed the Attorney General for Pakistan to assist the court on this issue on Thursday.

Our correspondent adds: The report with the above mentioned SC remarks was issued by the Online news agency and carried by several newspapers. Online news agency’s reports, particularly on Supreme Court, were also contradicted in the past. The Editorial Committee of the Jang Group has taken notice of this fact and decided to use Online news agency’s reports after tight scrutiny in future. The News regrets publication of Online news agency’s report and apologises for this.
This blog has observed from time to time how hazardous it is to predict outcomes on the basis of comments and colloquys during appellate arguments. Equally, a comment or question from the bench is not a holding of the court. Still, this current kerfuffle seems like serious overkill, and calculated to chill robust coverage of the court's public proceedings. Bad journalism should mean readers turn to other news outlets, not haling careless journalists or their management into court. Editor's gratuitous advice: let it go.

Hey, ROK, it's 2015!

Can it be that South Korea is still having trouble coming to grips with conscientious objection by Jehovah's Witnesses? Seems so, according to this piece in the Los Angeles Times:
Some 600 conscientious objectors are currently behind bars in South Korea, most of them Jehovah’s Witnesses, for refusing to serve in the 650,000-strong military. Though South Korea has several “alternative service” options for men like Lee, including working in administrative roles in government offices, even these recruits must go through a month of combat training — a requirement that some find unacceptable.

Russia 0, Georgia 1?

In a remarkable development, the Russian Federation has agreed to allow Georgia to prosecute a Russian soldier accused of murdering seven Georgian civilians. It's an amazing turnaround, attributed to protests by Georgians. Details here. Excerpt:
Russia has agreed to let Armenian courts try a Russian soldier accused of murdering seven members of an Armenian family after deserting Russia's major military base in the country. The move is a major concession by Moscow, and comes as large-scale street protests in Yerevan against Armenia's Russian-owned electricity company have been gathering strength.

The soldier, Valery Permyakov, walked off Russia's 102nd military base in Gyumri on January 12, walked into the nearby home of the Avetsiyan family and opened fire; six died immediately and a seventh, a six-month-old baby, died later in the hospital. The case outraged Armenians and led to unprecedented protestsagainst the base.

From the beginning, Armenia and Russia have disagreed about who should be able to try Permyakov: Armenia wanted him tried in Armenian courts, while Russia wanted him to be tried by a Russian military court, albeit on Armenian soil.

On June 26, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan met with a Russian government delegation to discuss energy fees, the issue that sparked the Yerevan protests. But the scope of the discussions was apparently wider than that, and Sargsyan's office issued a surprise announcement after the meeting:

"At the meeting ... Sargsyan took the opportunity to express appreciation to the Russian law enforcement organs, in particular to the prosecutor's office for effective cooperation with the Armenian prosecutor's office on the investigation the inhuman crime in Gyumri in January," Sargsyan's office said in a statement, news agencies reported. "The decision about the transfer of the criminal case to the Investigative Committee of Armenia and the appropriate authorities in Armenia, reflects the spirit of partnership and brotherhood and fully corresponds with the position of the Armenian-Russian agreement on the status of the Russian military base in Armenia."