A congressman wants members of the U.S. armed forces to stop sexual abuse on military installations and forward operating bases, including crimes by allied troops in their own countries.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., announced Wednesday he would introduce a bill that, should it become law, would force the Defense Department to expand the scope of abuse service members should intervene to stop. The bill says it is in response to reports that soldiers and Marines have been "advised to respect cultural and religious practices of Afghans and told that sexual abuse perpetrated by local allies was a matter of Afghan law."
The legislation, officially the Mandating America's Responsibility to Limit Abuse, Negligence and Depravity, or Martland Act, says that "human rights violations, including child abuse, shall not be conducted or condoned on any U.S. military instillation" in the U.S. and abroad — whether the perpetrator is American or foreign. It requires the Pentagon to submit to Congress "a comprehensive plan detailing the procedures by which the Secretary will implement the policy" within 90 days of the bill's passage into law.
The bill cites as an example and precedent a Pentagon policy that instructs troops to oppose prostitution, forced labor and human trafficking. The bill quotes a U.S. soldier stationed in southern Afghanistan who said Afghan police officers brought boys onto a base to sexually abuse: "At night we could hear [the boys] screaming but we're not allowed to do anything about it."
Hunter's chief of staff, Joe Kasper, told the Army Times that Hunter is working to secure co-sponsors and plans to introduce the bill later this week as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.
A Pentagon spokesperson said the Defense Department does not comment on pending legislation.
In 2011, the bill's namesake, Special Forces Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland, and his commander Capt. Daniel Quinn beat Afghan police commander Abdul Rahman. Rahman allegedly had admitted — and laughed off — repeatedly abusing a young boy in his home.
Quinn and Martland were reprimanded for the incident in Kunduz province; Martland eventually re-enlisted while Quinn left the Army in 2012. But last year the resulting blemish in his NCO evaluation report from that incident tabbed Martland along with hundreds of other noncommissioned officers for involuntary separation via the Army's qualitative management program, a quality-control process.
Hunter, other members of Congress and several fellow soldiers have fought what they characterize as the Army kicking out a talented 11-year service member and Bronze Star recipient for confronting a child abuser. His separation, originally set for last Nov. 1, has repeatedly been delayed by the Army, most recentlyuntil May 1 to allow him to appeal to the Army Board for the Correction of Military Records.