Congressman Patrick Meehan (PA-07) today issued the following statement in the wake of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's call for the amendment of Article 60 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Earlier this year, the ruling and sentencing of an Air Force officer convicted of sexual assault was reversed by the general officer who convened the court-martial. Article 60 contains broad but little-known authority permitting the convening officer to dismiss a verdict without any justification. The Lieutenant General who convened the trial reinstated the officer to active duty and no justification was given for the conviction's dismissal.
"Allowing a military commander to unilaterally throw out a conviction is deeply unfair to victims. Sexual assault victims deserve better than to go through the anguish and stress of a trial and then, without any justification, see their attacker released and reinstated into active duty," Meehan said.
Rep. Meehan is an original cosponsor of H.R. 1079, the Military Judicial Reform Act, which protects victims by removing this authority. Congressional action is necessary to amend the UCMJ.
"Allowing a military officer with no legal training to dismiss the verdict of a jury is a travesty of justice. Our military's judicial system ensures that servicemembers are tried by a jury of their peers and includes a rigorous appeals process. This process should be allowed to run its course in a transparent, open way," said Rep. Meehan.
"I applaud Sec. Hagel for standing up for victims and I call on my colleagues in Congress to act swiftly on the Military Judicial Reform Act to correct this issue," Meehan said.