The US military and the people who should be supervising the US military are doing such a bad job of addressing sexual harassment that the UN has taken notice, Jenna McLaughlin reports at Mother Jones. How impressive is that? I feel so proud.
The US military has a problem with sexual violence. That’s the conclusion of the Universal Periodic Review Panel, a UN panel that aims to address the human rights records of the 193 UN member states. This is the second time that the panel has scrutinized the United States; the first was in 2010, when the list of concerns included detention in Guantanamo Bay, torture, the death penalty, and access to health care. Its latest report came out Monday morning, and there was a surprising addition to the predictable laundry list of US human rights violations.
In one of 12 final recommendations, the UN Council urged the US military “to prevent sexual violence in the military and ensure effective prosecution of offenders and redress for victims.”
As opposed to, you know, not preventing sexual violence in the military and not ensuring effective prosecution of offenders and redress for victims.
The UN panels likely decided to investigate US military sexual violence in response to a report last year from the Service Women’s Action Network and Cornell Law School’s Avon Global Center for Women and Justice and the Global Gender Justice Clinic. It analyzed statistics from the Department of Defense, survivors’ stories from federal cases, and interviews with survivors.
The report concluded, “In cases where an act of sexual assault has already been committed in the military, the U.S. oftentimes fails to promptly and impartially prosecute and effectively redress the assault and thereby violates servicemen and women’s rights under international law.”
The UN HRC pointed to probably the worst thing about the military’s way with sexual assault, which is that they deal with it in house. Who else does that? Oh yes, the Vatican.
The UN Human Rights Council evaluation targeted the military’s reporting process, in which the decision of whether to prosecute cases of alleged sexual assault or harassment is left to superiors in the chain of command rather than an outsider with experience in sexual assault. For years, activists and lawmakers in the United States have tried to change this protocol—but leaders in the military have balked at bringing civilians into bases and military academies to investigate alleged assaults. Advocates say that commanders should not be in charge of handling these cases, since they are not trained in legal or criminal matters and often directly supervise both the victim and the perpetrator. Victims often are afraid to report the assault, fearing retribution or inaction. In a 2014 RAND Corporation survey of service members who reported sexual assaults, 62 percent of those who responded claimed they experienced social or professional retaliation after reporting unwanted sexual harassment, including being fired.
Denmark’s representative to the UN Human Rights Council, Carsten Staur, recommended“removing from the chain of command the decision about whether to prosecute cases of alleged assault.” His comments marked the “first time that a human rights body has called upon the U.S. to remove key decision-making authority from the chain of command in cases alleging sexual violence,” noted Liz Brundige, the Avon Global Center’s director, in a press release.
The State Department, the Pentagon, and the US representative to the United Nations did not respond to requests for comment on the council report.
Well hey, it’s not as if they’re supposed to be accountable to the citizenry.
Oh wait. Yes they are. Why did they not respond?