Friday, August 18, 2017

UK civil control and oversight of military produce beneficial results for military families

The BBC News reports on the results of an Inquest conducted into the death of Private Phillip Hewett who was killed by a roadside bomb while travelling in a lightly armoured "snatch" Land Rover in Iraq.  He was the 37th soldier to be killed in the such vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan which became know as "mobile coffins." Following an Inquest, she sued the Ministry of Defence under the Human Rights Act.   But the UK military continued to contest her case until an Inquiry into the Iraq war conducted by Sir John Chilcot revealed that the Ministry of Defence had known about the vehicle's vulnerability and for years had failed to provide more heavily armoured vehicles.
We have found that the Ministry of Defence was slow in responding to the threat from Improvised Explosive Devices and that delays in providing adequate medium weight protected patrol vehicles should not have been tolerated. It was not clear which person or department within the Ministry of Defence was responsible for identifying and articulating such capability gaps. But it should have been.
The UK government accepted the findings of Sir Chilcot in relation to the Snatch Land Rover which were published on July 6, 2016 and resulted in a settlement of the case and an apology from the Defence Secretary to the late Phillip Hewett's mother by Sir Michael Fallon for failures that "could have saved lives."

End of the line for the Gaynor case

The High Court of Australia today denied Bernard Gaynor's application for leave to appeal in Gaynor v. Chief of Defence Force, with costs. Background here; excerpt from the latest news:
During a complex hearing at the High Court in Brisbane on Friday, Justices Anthony Keane and James Edelman were told the appeal against the Chief of Defence Force's decision hinged, in part, on military regulations about the suitability of officers to serve. 
Those included following orders and official ADF policy, which prohibits its members making political statements. 
Mr Gaynor had argued he wasn't in uniform, on base or assignment when he made the comments and as a reservist had a different status to a regular officer. 
The High Court Justices, however, said that sufficient grounds to establish special leave to appeal the federal court ruling had not been made out and dismissed the appeal.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Are the padres' lips sealed?

CBC News reports on a controversy involving the duty of Canadian military chaplains to report crimes under some circumstances. Excerpt:
The Canadian military's marching orders for chaplains who counsel perpetrators or victims of sexual misconduct is [sic] causing a crisis of conscience for some clergy, federal documents reveal. 
A series of morale and welfare reports obtained by CBC News under Access to Information legislation show the issue of pastors being compelled to testify in court has become a matter of increasing unease among military clergy. 
"There is concern by chaplains that they are potentially breaching the confidentiality of those receiving spiritual care," said a March 2015 summary prepared by the military chaplain general's office. Moreover, the report said, "the existing framework for legal assistance to chaplains does not provide legal advice for them." 
Pastors on bases along the West Coast seemed the most concerned about the ethical dilemma, and at one point they consulted with the regional prosecutor's office to review legal issues related to chaplain confidentiality in courts martial. 
Directive from the top 
But as far as the military's top spiritual adviser is concerned, the issue is clear-cut.
Brig.-Gen. Guy Chapdelaine has issued a directive that says, with the exception of confessions heard under the sanctity of Roman Catholic reconciliation, pastors are required to disclose what they have been told if a crime has been committed. 
"In certain circumstances, there is a duty to report what has been revealed in a counselling situation," said the Oct. 23, 2015, directive, recently obtained by CBC News through Access to Information. 
The directive states: "With the exception of an exchange of sacrament reconciliation with a Roman Catholic priest, confidentiality in pastoral care and counselling is not applicable" when the person is a danger to themselves or others, when the incident involves child abuse or when a court orders a pastor to testify. 
Further, "all notes and documentation, including all emails concerning the case," may be turned over to the court for "consideration" during the trial. 
The chaplains could be called upon to testify, but "will share all information with investigators only with the written consent of the victim." 
They should also "encourage, and where appropriate enable" the victim to report incidents.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

A culture of presumed guilt?

The culture within the military has become one of presumed guilt for the accused. Military attorneys wield tremendous power over service members accused of misconduct. Army trial counselors have the power to pull decision authority from commanders who ask tough questions before passing judgment. Many commanders are hesitant to challenge trial counselor recommendations.

U.S. Army officer Chase Spears
 Letter to the Editor, Washington Post

A bit of good news in Venezuela

We learn from this report that Venezuela's new National Constituent Assembly -- the superlegislature composed entirely of loyalists of President Nicolás Maduro -- has directed that the hundreds of civilian protesters who had been charged before military courts will be tried in the regular courts. The step was proposed by Sr. Maduro.