Friday, October 16, 2015

Was it abuse of authority or domestic violence?

The Spanish Supreme Court decided that a civilian court should investigate the possible crime of domestic violence (violencia machista) in a complaint denouncing ill treatment presented by a female soldier against her partner, a corporal, instead of processing the case as abuse of authority in a military court.

The Chamber of the Supreme Court that resolves conflict of jurisdiction issues settled the dispute between the civilian court in the Grand Canary Islands and Military Court No. 52.

The events occurred on October 17, 2014 at Gando Air Base.  On that day, the female soldier complained that when she was in her home, a corporal from the same base, broke into her room, insulting her and asking for explanations about her personal life, and then he attacked her.

For military jurisdiction the acts could be interpreted as the crime of abuse of authority under the Military Penal Code, constituting inhuman and degrading treatment.

But for civilian jurisdiction, what occurred should be investigated as a case of domestic violence, because the environment in which the alleged aggression took place was that of a couple, not that of hierarchical respect owed by a subordinate to a superior.

The Supreme Court accepted the latter reasoning although it recognized that "the hierarchical relation between the members of the military is of a permanent character and it is maintained with independence from any conditioning, with independence from the moment or the situation."  But the general rule has exceptions in those situations in which the special relation or affection between people emerges with intensity.  Personal relations have to trump strict military relations, wrote the author of the decision, Judge Benito Galvez Acosta.

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