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Begich Disappointed Provisions to Prosecute Sexual Assault Criminals in the Military are Watered Down

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich today expressed disappointment that stronger measures to combat military sexual assault were stripped from the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2014 that is currently being reviewed by the Senate Armed Service Committee.

Begich is a co-sponsor of the recently excluded measure, Military Justice Improvement Act. The legislation would have strengthened prosecution of sexual assault crimes in the military by taking away the authority of commanders to overturn or lessen court-martial verdicts in sexual assault cases, requiring justification for changes in court-martial sentences by a commander, and removing the military chain-of-command from determining whether sexual assault cases are prosecuted.

“Sexual assault has absolutely no place in the military. Our men and women in the military deserve an environment that holds criminals accountable and promotes their safety and well-being,” said Begich. “I’m disappointed to see that efforts to prosecute and punish those who commit sexual assault in our military have been watered down. We’ve seen too many perpetrators avoid penalties in the military because commanders were lenient. The system clearly isn’t working. Although I commend the Senate Armed Services Committee for including key provisions of other legislation I supported for victims of sexual assault, in the coming weeks I will continue to advocate holding criminals accountable in order to restore trust in our military as an institution.”

Begich is a strong supporter of legislation to prevent sexual assault and to help victims of sexual assault—especially in the military.  He recently co-sponsored the Combating Military Sexual Assault Act as well as the The Ruth Moore Act of 2013, which would make disability benefits available for women veterans if they are suffering from PTSD or depression following a military-related sexual assault. Provisions of the Ruth Moore Act were included in the Senate Armed Services Committee Bill. Begich is also a co-sponsor of the Defense STRONG Act, which would strengthen protections for military assault victims to ensure crimes are reported without fear of retribution.  Begich also sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in May urging the DOD to address the problem of sexual assault in the military by enacting minimum sentences for sexual assault crimes.

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