Sweeping changes to military justice code mandate handling of serious crimes outside chain of command
According to the New York Times, the changes are the most significant since the military code was created in 1950. Image from Shutterstock.
President Joe Biden on Friday signed an executive order that implements large-scale changes to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The revisions require sexual assault, rape and murder cases to be handled by the newly created Offices of Special Trial Counsel, which will be made up of special prosecutors who will report to civilian military leaders, the New York Times reports.
As a result of the changes, military lawyers in the new office, rather than military commanders, will decide whether to pursue serious charges.
According to the New York Times, the changes are the most significant since the military code was created in 1950. They follow criticism that the military’s legal system was downplaying and ignoring cases of sexual assault.
“We’ve heard horrific cases of women being brutally, brutally assaulted and then disbelieved and retaliated against for coming forward,” said Democratic U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York in an interview with the New York Times. Gillibrand had led the battle for change.
A law signed by Biden in 2021 required the changes and created a two-year process for implementation. The executive order signed Friday was the final step in the process. The Offices of Special Trial Counsel will begin prosecuting cases by the end of the year.