Tuesday, May 6, 2014

The Barbera case and the problem of unreported misconduct

Jim Wilhelm has this story in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review about the Sgt. 1st Class Michael Barbera case, in which a soldier has been accused of shooting two unarmed civilian youths in Iraq in 2007. Among the issues the case raises is why the incident was not reported promptly and then why no Article 32, UCMJ, preliminary investigation was conducted at first. The Article 32 report has not yet been submitted.

The Tribune-Review's article notes:
About the time that officials reconsidered charges for Barbera last year, a subcommittee of the Defense Legal Policy Board issued a 271-page report on military justice involving service members accused of causing the death, injury or abuse of noncombatants in Iraq or Afghanistan. The board prepared the report in its role as a committee advising the secretary of Defense.
Though the report did not pass judgment on particular cases, the subcommittee reviewed instances of alleged misconduct that caused civilian casualties.
“Evidence exists that service members at the point of contact, or their leaders, have been reluctant to inform the command of reportable incidents,” the subcommittee found. “This reluctance may be attributed to any number of potential factors, including a feeling of justification in connection with the actions taken, fear of career repercussions, loyalty to fellow service members or the unit, or ignorance.”
The report recommends changes in the military justice system's handling of reporting and adjudicating civilian killings, injuries and abuses.
Much of the current discussion of military justice reform in the United States has focused on the underreporting of sex offenses, whereas this case and the DLPB report suggest that the problem is not confined to such cases. 

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