Sunday, October 22, 2017

Thailand's military courts

The Bangkok Post has published a tough column by Alan Dawson on a visit to one of Thailand's military courts, under the title "The Intimidation Game." Contrary to contemporary human rights norms, these courts can try civilians. Excerpt:
The military prosecutors don't allow lawyers in their courts but agreed to let two people from iLaw attend. They did not actually shackle them and use duct tape to ensure their silence. The iLaw representatives, however, had to wear special badges at all times, like yellow stars. This was not because they are Jews but because they are worse -- members of a human rights group.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Military Justice Act of 2016 program at GWU

Sponsored by ABA Standing Committee on Armed Forces Law, ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security, ABA Criminal Justice Section, ABA GPSOLO: Military Lawyers Committee, National Institute of Military Justice, and Judge Advocates Association

November 1, 2017 | 11:30 a.m.  2:30 p.m.
Light lunch at 11:30 a.m. | Event begins at 12:00 p.m.

THIS EVENT IS FREE

The George Washington University Law School Student Conference Center, Lisner Hall (2nd Floor) 2023 G St. NW, Washington, DC 20052

Opening Presentation: Legislative Background of the Military Justice Act of 2016
COL (Ret. U.S. Army) Patricia Ham, Executive Director, Military Justice Review Group

Moderator: Professor David A. Schlueter, Saint Mary’s University School of Law

Panel 1: Disposition: Offense through Trial; Articles 32 & 33; Pre-Trial Agreements
  1. COL William Smoot, Chief, Criminal Law Division, U.S. Army OTJAG
  2. LTC Sara Root, Chief, Mobile Training Team MJA 2016, U.S. Army OTJAG
  3. MAJ Wes Braun, Chief Joint Service Policy & Legislation, Military Justice Division, U.S. Air Force Legal Operations Agency
  4. LT Alexandra Nica, JAGC, Criminal Law Division, OJAG
Panel 2: Sentencing: Members, Judge Alone, and Sentencing Standards
  1. COL Peter Yob, Special Victim Program Manager, U.S. Army OTJAG
  2. LTC Jay Thoman, Chief, Criminal Law Policy Branch, U.S. Army OTJAG
  3. MAJ Wes Braun, Chief Joint Service Policy & Legislation, Military Justice Division, U.S. Air Force Legal Operations Agency
  4. LT Alexandra Nica, JAGC, Criminal Law Division, OJAG
Closing Presentation: The New Transparency: DoD Pacer-like System; Data Collection Ms. Eleanor Vuono, Member, Military Justice Review Group


RSVP by October 30, 2017 to NSLA@law.gwu.edu

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A step backwards in Brazil

"A military member of the Armed Forces doesn't act as a private citizen, but as the State itself, under its supreme power, and deserves to be judged by a specialized judiciary."

Brazil's Minister of Defense, commenting here on President Michel Temer's approval of legislation transferring from civilian to military jurisdiction serious cases in which the victim is a civilian and the perpetrator is a member of the armed forces

The George III Award for retrograde legislation is hereby conferred on Mr. Temer and the Brazilian Congress.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Judicial Proceedings Panel reports

The Judicial Proceedings Panel (JPP) has issued the following news release:
The Judicial Proceedings Since Fiscal Year 2012 Amendments Panel (JPP) has released its final report-the culmination of three years of the Panel's review and assessment of issues involving judicial proceedings under the Uniform Code of Military Justice related to sexual assault in the Armed Forces.
Over the course of its term, the JPP issued 11 reports to the Secretary of Defense and Congress presenting its research, findings, and recommendations on the topics assigned to it by Congress and on two topics referred by a predecessor sexual assault advisory committee--the Response Systems Panel. The JPP also investigated two additional issues that came to its attention as the Panel conducted its other assessments: retaliation against those who report sexual assault and the rights of victims at the appellate stage of the judicial process.
The Judicial Proceedings Panel Final Report addresses these JPP reports, which can be found on the JPP website at http://jpp.whs.mil. These reports are:
  • Judicial Proceedings Panel Initial Report (February 2015)
  • Judicial Proceedings Panel Report on Restitution and Compensation for Military Adult Sexual Assault Crimes (February 2016)
  • Judicial Proceedings Panel Report on Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (February 2016)
  • Judicial Proceedings Panel Report on Retaliation Related to Sexual Assault Offenses (February 2016)
  • Judicial Proceedings Panel Report on Statistical Data Regarding Military Adjudication of Sexual Assault Offenses (April 2016)
  • Judicial Proceedings Panel Report on Military Defense Counsel Resources and Experience in Sexual Assault Cases (April 2017)
  • Judicial Proceedings Panel Report on Victims' Appellate Rights (June 2017)
  • Judicial Proceedings Panel Report on Sexual Assault Investigations in the Military (September 2017)
  • Judicial Proceedings Panel Report on Statistical Data Regarding Military Adjudication of Sexual Assault Offenses for Fiscal Year 2015 (September 2017)
  • Judicial Proceedings Panel Report on Panel Concerns Regarding the Fair Administration of Military Justice in Sexual Assault Cases (September 2017)
A five-member independent federal advisory committee tasked by Congress in 2013 to conduct an independent review and assessment of military judicial proceedings for sexual assault offenses since fiscal year 2012, the JPP held 32 public meetings between August 2014 and July 2017 during which the members heard testimony from hundreds of witnesses, including sexual assault survivors and victim advocacy organizations, military leaders, military and civilian prosecutors, defense counsel and victims' counsel, former military judges, victim services personnel, and numerous others. The Panel also received thousands of pages of documents from the Department of Defense, the military Services, and other interested parties.
During three years of review, the JPP has observed and assessed many constructive and important changes to combat sexual assault in the military and improve support for victims. The Panel emphasizes the fundamental importance of a fair and just military justice system to the operational readiness of the United States Armed Forces. As stated in the Judicial Proceedings Panel Report on Panel Concerns Regarding the Fair Administration of Military Justice in Sexual Assault Cases, "It is vital for the military justice system to strike the right balance between the needs of the victim and the needs of the defendant. Both must be properly addressed if the system is to be fair and just, and perceived as such."
The Panel thanks the hundreds of individuals who have contributed their time, insights, and effort to its work, including its staff. The Panel also expresses its thanks to the Secretary of Defense and Congress for their recognition and support.
More information about the JPP, including the full version of this report and testimony and materials considered by the Panel members, is available on the JPP's website at http://jpp.whs.mil.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Egyptian decision not a panacea

The Constitutional Court's decision in Egypt that allocates protest cases to civilian courts rather than military courts may be little cause for celebration. According to this article, the cases will now go to state security courts, which have their own problems. Excerpt:
With the existence of Law 136/2014, which gives military judiciary authority over the protection of vital facilities, the ordinary criminal court saw that the case should be referred to a military court. The latter rejected the case on the grounds that no harming of public facilities actually took place – an argument upheld by the Constitutional Court.
Military trials of civilians have been a source of controversy among human rights defenders. But whether Saturday’s verdict was a victory in that context is debatable. Both [lawyer Negad] El-Borai and [Mokhtar Mounir, a lawyer at the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression,] pointed out that State Security Emergency courts would now replace military trials in protest cases.
“Like in the military judiciary, those emergency courts do not protect basic due process,” El-Borai said concerning the rights of the defendants. “As the Cassation Court has to fully re-examine cases, the state may be looking to take off pressure by accelerating the process though emergency courts,” he said.
Mounir pointed out that it is expected that misdemeanor cases related to protests would go to emergency courts, according to a new cabinet decision to refer certain crimes to those courts including violations of the Protest Law.
What about past cases? "Existing verdicts would have to be appealed before the same military judiciary using the Constitutional Court’s verdict." says attorney Mounir.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Lies, damn lies, and statistics

In the past we've noted unexpectedly high numbers of hits from Russia. Today it is Germany. Our analytical tools report that in the past two hours, Global Military Justice Reform has had a whopping (and literally unbelievable) 1012 hits from Germany, a mere three from the United States, and just one from Indonesia. As we have previously reported, the data must be taken with a grain of salt. It's unclear if this reflects some nefarious plot (think: 2016 US presidential election), but from the glass-enclosed newsroom high above Global Military Justice Reform Plaza, it's disturbing and readers should be aware of it.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Some things are becoming constants

Regardless of country or Service, senior officers are getting into trouble and sex is somewhere in the allegations along with some lying to investigators.  The Times of India brings us this little piece.

Brigadier loses 10-yr seniority for affair with colonel's wife
The brigadier faced as many as 13 charges, including adultery, falsifying official documents and violation of good order and military discipline[.]
[He] was awarded a 10-year loss of seniority and "a severe reprimand" by a general court martial after he pleaded guilty to committing adultery during the military trial.
"Stealing the affections of a brother officer's wife'' - euphemism for a sexual affair is considered a very serious misdemeanour and unbecoming conduct in the armed forces. Usually, officers indicted for such offence are summarily sacked, sometimes without pension and other benefits. "But the punishment is relatively less in the brigadier's case because he pleaded guilty to the charges," said an officer.
See here for an earlier blog, sort of the same subject.

Up until some years ago, the U. S. Navy had a court-martial punishment called 'loss of numbers,' the same principle as applied to the Brigadier here. Someone decided to remove that as a possible punishment--I wonder if they should bring that possible punishment back?

A surprising ruling in Egypt

Global Military Justice Reform is more than willing to kvetch when the circumstances warrant -- which is all too often. Now for a pleasant surprise from Egypt. The Constitutional Court ruled today the protest cases must be tried in civilian rather than military courts. Here is an excerpt from this account:
Egypt's Supreme Constitutional Court ruled on Saturday that protest-related cases fall under the jurisdiction of the regular judiciary, not military courts.
The court’s ruling was in response to six cases submitted by the State Lawsuits Authority to determine which judicial authority should review cases involving illegal protest and obstructing roads in Upper Egypt's Beni Suef.
The Beni Suef cases were the subject of a judicial dispute between the regular criminal court and the military court in the governorate.
The Constitutional Court said in its reasoning that the defendants were to be tried in regular court given that they are not members of the Armed Forces and their crimes did not involve public institutions or properties.

Welcome aboard!

Global Military Justice Reform is proud to welcome a new contributor: Captain (ret) John Byron, U.S. Navy. We look forward to having his insights as a line officer/submariner and highly regarded commentator on naval matters.

One skipper’s view of captain’s mast

Post by John Byron,  Captain, USN (Ret)
Yes, it’s non-judicial. But it needs to be just and seen as such by all the interested parties.
Who are they?
  • The accused standing at the bar.
  • The rest of the crew, who’ll both judge the skipper and should find lessons on good order and discipline.
  •  Higher authority, the Fourth Estate, and the general public, as the Commanding Officer of USS SHILOH (CG-67) recently discovered.
So the question is how best to serve this goal, to make the justice of non-judicial punishment visible to all.
The answer I came to early in my command tours, USS GUDGEON (SS-567) and later Naval Ordinance Test Unit Cape Canaveral: hold all masts in public, with as many of the crew attending as space and other duties allow.
Admittedly, doing so was contrary to my upbringing and experience in the five ships I’d served in previously. In them (and most or all of the rest of the Navy), mast was always held in private, the chain of command and the alleged miscreant the only attendees, even witnesses kept out until called upon. It’s the way it was.
But, with some misgivings at first and an Executive Officer and Chief of the Boat rather dubious, I decided to go back to earlier tradition, the days of sail and punishment in view of the crew topside before the mast. I found the results to be better than I could have anticipated. It really worked. 
Why do it this way, hold mast in public? Three reasons:
  • The accused stands before peers and suddenly the bluster and bravado that led to the incident seem a lot less brave. It’s intimidating to be seen as letting down the crew and the ship’s reputation with misbehavior. The prospect of later having to stand before shipmates accused of wrongdoing concentrates the mind wonderfully.
  • It informs the crew of the fairness of the proceedings, something often lost when the main source of crew information is the accused—found to have committed the offense with which charged—then going to the crew with his or her version of how they got screwed at mast. Trust me—it happens 100% of the time when no one else sees the actual mast
  • Most importantly, it makes the skipper conscious that the whole crew is audience and needs to see clearly that what happens at mast is fair and proper. Being arbitrary and vindictive tells the crew their captain is a jerk, a moral brake on mean behavior that a skipper has authority for but never justification.
Not many masts in a diesel submarine or a happy shore command, but those I did run (with one exception*) were done in front of the whole crew, to its benefit and mine.
Skippers: hold your masts in front of the whole crew.

*I had a really fine young sailor who’d made a mistake and needed to be called to account. But I didn’t want to wreck his future in the boat. So mast was private and very quiet, sentence suspended on good behavior, and I was pleased months later to pin submarine dolphins on a well-qualified squared-away submariner. Judgment call. That’s what you get paid for.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Where should this case be tried?

The family of a Malaysian sailor who was killed in a naval detention center want the murder charge to be tried in a military court. How much weight should be given to their preference? Here's the story.

HRW calls for veto in Brazil

Human Rights Watch has called upon Brazilian President Michel Temer to veto a bill that would permit soldiers who kill civilians to be tried by military courts. Excerpt:
In the military justice system, the courts of first instance are staffed by four military officers and a civilian judge, all with an equal vote. The appeals court, the Superior Military Tribunal, consists of 15 military officers and five civilians. Its decisions can be appealed to the Supreme Federal Court, a civilian court.
The military criminal code, approved in 1969 during Brazil’s military dictatorship (1964-1985), provided that unlawful killings of civilians should be tried before military courts. But it was amended in 1996 to move trials for such crimes to civilian courts.
Under international and regional norms, extrajudicial executions and other grave human rights violations should not be tried before military courts. The Inter-American Court o[f] Human Rights has ruled that “military criminal jurisdiction is not the competent jurisdiction to investigate and, if applicable, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of human rights violations.”
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has held that it is not appropriate to try violations of human rights before military jurisdictions given that “when the State permits investigations to be conducted by the entities with possible involvement, independence and impartiality are clearly compromised.”
The UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors implementation of governments’ obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has called on states to ensure that military personnel are subject to civilian jurisdiction for any crimes that are not “of an exclusively military nature.”

Comments on proposed changes to Manual for Courts-Martial

With enactment of the Military Justice Act of 2016, the Defense Department is finalizing corresponding changes to the Manual for Courts-Martial. A number of comments on the draft changes have been posted on the Regulations.gov and are available here. The comment period has closed.

One interesting comment came from a Navy JAG Corps officer, and concerns disposition guidance. It can be found here:
Article 33 requires the issuance of "non-binding guidance regarding factors that commanders, convening authorities, staff judge advocates, and judge advocates should take into account when exercising their duties with respect to disposition of charges and specifications in the interest of justice and discipline." The statute requires this disposition guidance to "take into account, with appropriate consideration of military requirements," the Principles of Federal Prosecution, Title 9-27 of the U.S. Attorney's Manual (USAM). The statute was designed to address a key vulnerability in the military justice system: the lack of meaningful decision-making guidance regarding the exercise of prosecutorial discretion by commanders, convening authorities, and judge advocates. In place of the "balance-of-considerations" approach to the disposition decision reflected in R.C.M. 306(b)which in effect make "probable cause" the sole referral criterion in many cases the statute's drafters envisioned structured, decision-making principles akin to those widely adopted in federal and state civilian practice. Such non-binding principles and standards have proven effective in promoting the reasoned exercise of prosecutorial discretion and the fair, evenhanded administration of criminal law. The [Joint Service Committee]'s proposed version of Appendix 2.1 makes a number of updates and improvements to the [Military Justice Review Group]'s original draft. But it eliminates key components of the Disposition Guidance that were designed to emulate the language and function of Sections 9-27.200 (Initiating and Declining ProsecutionProbable Cause Requirement), 9-27.220 (Grounds for Commencing or Declining Prosecution), and 9-27.230 (Substantial Federal Interest) of the USAM. Without these provisions, the JSC's version of the Disposition Guidance perpetuates the system vulnerability a lack of structured decision-making guidance beyond the minimum referral threshold of probable cause that Article 33 was enacted to address. The attached proposal builds off the JSC version of Appendix 2.1, while restoring and updating these key provisions intended by the statute's drafters. The following additional changes, highlighted in yellow, are proposed throughout the document: The Guidance is entitled "Principles of Military Prosecution" to emphasize its close connection to the Principles of Federal Prosecution. The structure and organization of the Guidance is modified to better align it with the Principles of Federal Prosecution and to reflect the distinct considerations at play in initiating and declining charges, selecting the appropriate charges and forum, and determining the appropriateness of plea agreements. Additional material from the Principles of Federal Prosecution is adapted throughout, where such material is appropriate in the military context. For example, Factor 1.2.e. is added to reflect that one of the core purposes of the Guidance: to "[p]romote confidence on the part of the public and individual service members that disposition decisions will be made rationally and objectively on the merits of the facts and circumstances of each case." The phrase "interest of justice and discipline" is restored throughout the Guidance in place of the proposed phrase, "[i]nterests of justice and good order and discipline." The former term has been a touchstone of military justice policy and practice since the 1920 Articles of War. It concisely captures "the dual-purpose of the American military justice system: to promote justice while maintaining discipline within the ranks." MJRG Report, Part I 293 (2015). It also speaks to the broad disposition authority granted to military commanders and convening authorities by Congress when the UCMJ was enacted in 1950. See United States v. Littrice, 13 C.M.R.43, 47 (C.M.A. 1953) ("It was generally recognized [by Congress] that military justice and military discipline were essentially interwoven. . . . [C]onfronted with the necessity of maintaining a delicate balance between justice and discipline, Congress liberalized the military judicial system but also permitted commanding officers to retain many of the powers held by them under prior laws."). In contrast, the phrase "interests of justice and good order and discipline" is without a clear, historical basis and is inconsistent with the UCMJ, which expressly connects the proper exercise of disposition discretion by commanders and convening authorities to "the interest of justice and discipline."

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Transparency and impunity in Pakistan

Zulfiquar Rao, writing in the Daily Times, objects to the nontransparent machinery for punishing generals (and judges) in Pakistan. Excerpt:
At least there are frequent cases of accountability within military corridors. Just last year, we saw around a dozen senior officers of armed forces sentenced through military’s internal accountability mechanism. However, in cases of corruption at a senior level, it’s actually a collegial mechanism exposed to empathy as a result of Espirit De Corps. Many in public have often found the punishments through internal mechanism of military, especially in cases of corruption as too soft, compared to what a civilian is subjected to in similar cases.
Besides, there are instances where the accused ex-servicemen could not be brought to justice. One such case is of a retired General, who as a minister was accused of leading the controversial leasing of railways land worth Rs 25 billion in Lahore to a private company which built a golf course there.
Seen from the perspective of our societal character, we all know how favoritism, nepotism, greed, fears and graft are rampant in Pakistan. Not just the politicians and civil servants but the judges and generals too belong to the same society. How come while politicians and civil servants are so frequently found fallible but the judges and generals are able to escape these human temptations which are the hallmark of our society?
In that context, what kind of accountability is it when the process is internal and remains shrouded in mystery and flimsy excuses? We are no longer a colony run by alien rulers to justify an apartheid-driven governance, where some are left to enjoy ‘white’ privileges.

Civilian v. military prosecution

Human Rights First's blog has this post by Sara Sirota about the current Khattala prosecution in federal district court in Washington, D.C. She writes in part:
[Ahmed Abu] Khattala’s trial highlights the sharp contrast between terrorism prosecutions in federal court and the broken military commission system at Guantanamo. Federal courts offer procedural benefits for the prosecution of suspected terrorists that a military commission—which can only try war crimes—does not. The Department of Justice can prosecute Khattala for a range of crimes that otherwise do not fall under the jurisdiction of a military commission. Khattala’s charges include material support for terrorism and using a firearm during a violent crime, which are not war crimes.
Federal courts have also proven much more effective at obtaining convictions of terrorist suspects than military commissions. Since September 11, 2001, military commission trials have resulted in only eight convictions, three of which were reversed or overturned entirely and one partially. Meanwhile, federal courts have produced more than 600 terrorism-related convictions in the same period, including 108 in which the defendant was captured abroad, like Khattala.
Khatalla’s trial should serve as a beacon for U.S. terrorism-related trials moving forward. Not only is a federal court more efficient in prosecuting such cases, but providing access to an independent, civilian tribunal demonstrates that the United States is a country of laws and values.
The case grows out of the Benghazi attack, and is being tried to a jury. 

No civilian trials for Brazilian soldiers accused of killing civilians

According to this report, "Brazilian troops who are increasingly being pressed into service to fight urban drug gangs will face a military tribunal, rather than a civilian court, if they are accused of killing civilians, under new legislation." Congress passed the bill on Tuesday. Defense minister Raul Jungmann said "in the event of unlawful death charges against soldiers, military courts were better equipped to rule fairly and quickly than slow-moving civilian courts. He added that charges such as torture aren’t covered by the new law and would continue to be heard by a civilian court."

Quaere: why not just improve the "slow-moving civilian courts"? In what sense are they less "well equipped" to be fair than military courts?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

No transgender personnel wanted in Indian Navy

The Indian Navy has discharged Sabi, a transgender officer, according to this BBC report. She plans to take the matter to a military court -- presumably the Armed Forces Tribunal.

A military justice reform proposal in Pakistan

Brig. (R) Shaukat Qadir, PA
Shaukat Qadir, a retired Pakistan Army brigadier, has offered an interesting suggestion for reform of his country's military justice system. Excerpt:
Most non-military personnel hold the view that no judicial representation exists within our military court system. Actually, this is not strictly true. It is mandatory for every military court to grant procedural access to a member of the military judiciary, the Judge Advocate General, JAG Branch, where all members must have a law degree. Yet this is not without problems. For while these learned folk may know the law — they may not be jurists and, consequently, may not comprehend “beyond reasonable doubt” — a concept to which, I am not sure, should be strictly adhered.
As at Nuremberg, one solution might be to have a high court judge as a member of each military court bench. Here again we are likely to face our psycho-social complexities pertaining to our old friend, the ego. In other words, a high court judge may find it below “His Lordship-ly” honour to sit on a military court. 
But, where there is a will, there is a way. In legal parlance there is a term Amicus Curiae, which is Latin for ‘friend of the court’. Usually a well reputed judge or lawyer who sits not as a member of the court but in an advisory capacity, whereby his opining represents a matter of record. Our military courts could, while retaining the compulsory member of the court from the JAG Branch, have a reputable lawyer as per Amicus Curiae.
Any Pakistani advocate willing to take on this ‘challenge’ will only have his reputation enhanced. While our military courts will enjoy genuine civilian judicial presence and, one hopes, also a jurist present.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Cert denied in al-Bahlul

It takes four votes to grant certiorari at the Supreme Court of the United States. Today certiorari was denied in the al-Bahlul military commission case. A denial of certiorari has no precedential value. All of that said, it is incomprehensible that the justices would not grant review, regardless of how they intended to vote on the (important) merits. Bloomberg article here.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Scorecard for Pakistan's military courts

A death penalty moratorium editorial in The News International reports:
Since January 7, 2015, military courts have convicted nearly 309 people – including 169 death convictions – while at least 48 others have been executed. All the cases that were reviewed were eventually dismissed by the high courts and the Supreme Court. Only the conviction of Muhammad Imran was set-aside by the Peshawar High Court.

Astonishingly, 93 percent of the convictions are based on confessions where the accused were defended by ‘military officers’ and the families had limited access in these matters.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sen. Gillibrand and military justice

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand
The Watertown Daily Times has published this editorial concerning military justice provisions advocated by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand:
Given that her colleagues continually reject her ideas to reform our nation’s military justice system, U.S. Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand finds it necessary to work on a few items at a time. 
And she is having some success with this approach. The U.S. Senate last month passed several measures sponsored by Ms. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2017-18. 
“I’m disappointed that, once again, the Senate blocked a vote on my Military Justice Improvement Act, which would put the decision to try felony-level cases in the hands of trained military prosecutors. But I am pleased that the Senate has passed other reforms I fought for to improve our military justice system,” Ms. Gillibrand, the ranking member on the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, said in a Sept. 19 news release. 
“With so many sexual assault crimes still happening in our military, from the Marines United photo scandal to the shamefully high rate of retaliation against military sexual assault survivors, it’s clear that we need to act urgently to pass and then implement these essential reforms. I was proud to fight for these improvements, and I will continue to do everything in my power to make sure our military has a justice system that is fair and professional.” 
According to her office’s news release, Ms. Gillibrand’s provisions are as follows: 
Cyber exploitation: There are no specific military or federal statutes addressing the electronic sharing of intimate images without consent, general cyberbullying or cyber exploitation that has the potential to affect our national security. Ms. Gillibrand’s provision would help close this gap and make it easier to hold these perpetrators accountable. This was prompted in part by an incident in which U.S. Marines, former Marines, other service members and civilians circulated illicit images of female service members and veterans. 
Litigation track for military justice professionalization: This legislation would create a career track for lawyers in each armed service in order to improve expertise within the military justice system. This would improve the quality of litigation expertise by requiring each branch of the military to implement a career litigation track that allows a portion of its lawyers to specialize in the foundation of U.S. military law and the Uniform Code of Military Justice for the bulk of their careers — an approach the U.S. Navy successfully adopted in 2007. 
E-STOP Act: The Educating Service Members in Training on Prevention Act would implement new educational steps to thwart sexual assault by mandating in-person, comprehensive sexual assault prevention training to newly enlisted service members before they depart for basic training, including proper use of social media. 
Appellate rights for victims: This legislation would pave the way for equal access to military appellate courts regarding victims’ rights. The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces has declined to hear petitions on victims’ rights issues, citing congressional intent, despite the fact that the NDAA for fiscal year 2015-16 provided for enforcement of certain crime victims’ rights by all courts of criminal appeals. Limiting access to appellate courts goes against the longstanding legal principle of due process. This bill allows both the accused and survivors a path for relief in the appellate court system.
These measures provide necessary reforms in specific areas of military justice. Ms. Gillibrand has confronted resistance to her ideas from officials in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill. Working on individual proposals may prove more effective in implementing crucial reforms. 
The NDAA is now in the conference committee for the U.S. House of Representatives. We urge legislators to ensure that Ms. Gillibrand’s proposals remain part of the overall bill.
If you were in Congress, what changes would you make to the system?