Pentagon to evaluate procedure in crimes against civilians
The Pentagon said Friday it has appointed of group of civilians and retired officers to determine how military justice has fared in cases of crimes against civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001.
The Defense Legal Policy Board aims to see whether the military justice system is working as intended and whether reforms are needed, Defense General Counsel Jeh Johnson said.
"The intent is not to look at any particular case and to say this was a bad result or that was a harsh result or that was a lenient result," he told reporters.
"This is part of an ongoing effort to continually ask ourselves are there ways in which we can improve military justice and engage in a self-critical analysis."
In a memo setting up the review board on Monday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta pointed to a need "to ensure that our system of military justice remains fair, credible and dependable."
"The abuses have been rare among our professional fighting forces, but they became huge flash points that threatened to undermine our entire mission and the foundation of our relationship with the host government and its people," Panetta said.
Such scandals include the deaths of 24 Iraqi civilians during a 2005 massacre in the western city of Haditha -- where seven of eight US military personnel were cleared of all charges -- and the March killing of 17 Afghan villagers by Sergeant Robert Bales.
The commission will evaluate how crimes against civilians were reported and how investigations were conducted, in an effort to improve procedures and investigator resources.
The evaluation will not address the mistreatment of prisoners or civilian casualties from friendly fire.