Former Defense Secretary Colin Powell said Saturday that U.S. troops convicted of sexual assault should not be automatically dishonorably discharged from the military.
“You can’t make a categorical statement like that,” he told Bloomberg TV. “We have a military justice system that is driven by our law, and it is not that dissimilar to the civilian system.”
Despite the high rate of sexual assault and instances of convictions being overturned by commanders, Powell said the military justice system was working.
“There will always be a case where somebody disagrees with a judgment made by somebody in the appellate procedure,” he explained. “Well, lets examine that, but lets not toss out a system that I think has worked very, very well over the years. I have been in that position as a commander. I have been the appellate authority. I have decided who should get tried and who should not get tried, and I can tell you that in my experience as a commander, we take it very, very seriously.”
Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and Barbara Boxer (CA) have proposed legislation that would change the way the military prosecutes sexual assault cases. Currently, unit commanders handle the prosecution and investigation of sexual assault cases. Under Gillibrand and Boxer’s bill, that authority would be transferred to an independent body.
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