The president of the United States signed a decree that reforms military justice, after years of failed attempts by the Pentagon to fight against this scourge
The US president, Joe Biden, signed a decree on Wednesday so that sexual harassment within the Armed Forces is treated as a crime in military justice, a reform spurred by the case of the soldier Vanessa Guillén, murdered in 2020 after report abuse at a Texas base.
Biden’s executive order also strengthens the military justice response to cases of sexist violence, and implements changes to “criminalize the negligent broadcast or dissemination of intimate visual images,” the White House explained in a statement.
The decree sets in motion some of the measures approved in the “I am Vanessa Guillén” law, which was ratified at the end of last year in the US Congress within the annual defense budget.
Guillén was 20 years old in April 2020, when he disappeared from the Fort Hood base in Texas, after having reported to his family that he suffered sexual harassment.
His dismembered and burned remains were found in June of that year about 32 kilometers from the base, where he died the same night he disappeared. According to the investigations, the young woman of Mexican descent was murdered by fellow soldier Aaron David Robinson, who, upon learning of the discovery of the remains, escaped from Fort Hood and later committed suicide when the police tried to arrest him in Kileen (Texas).
The United States Army acknowledged at the end of that year that, when investigating the Guillén case, it had identified “serious flaws in the mechanisms to deal with complaints of sexual harassment and abuse, and a climate that tolerates these abuses.”
Guillen’s murder “catalyzed national attention to the problem of sexual violence in our Armed Forces and helped spur bipartisan reform of military justice,” White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at her press conference on Wednesday. daily.
One in four women and one in 16 men who work in the military or for the US Department of Defense experience sexual harassment at some point in their career, according to a study last year by the research center Rand Corporation.
The law that bears Guillén’s name removes the evaluation of sexual abuse complaints from the chain of command, which will be reviewed by independent offices and not by the commanders of each military branch, as has been the case until now.
The text establishes that sexual assaults, domestic violence, and assaults on minors will be tried before a court-martial, and the decision to prosecute the perpetrators will be entrusted to specialized prosecutors – who have not yet been named – and no longer to the chain of command.
The US military has so far resisted, citing the need to maintain disciplinary control within the ranks.
It will be the military justice that decides the penalties that could be imposed as a result of sexual harassment, and those same courts will also determine if the situation changes now that it is beginning to be considered a crime, a White House spokesman told Efe.
However, as the number of sexual assaults continues unabated, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin appointed an independent commission to study scenarios where perpetrators of sexual violence in the military could be more effectively prosecuted.
The commission concluded that taking away from the military hierarchy the decision whether or not to prosecute perpetrators of sexual violence was the only solution.
In addition, instead of incurring simple administrative sanctions as before, those responsible would face prison sentences.
Mayra Guillén, Vanessa’s sister, celebrated the signing of Biden’s decree on Wednesday, celebrating that the soldier’s legacy “continues to live, to make not only the world a better place but specifically the Armed Forces,” in statements to the NewsNation network.