Protect Our Defenders President Nancy Parrish writes for the Huffington Post:
Last Friday, President Obama signed an Executive Order amending the Manual for Courts Martial (MCM) that includes provisions that severely undermine essential protections for sexual assault victims in the military. This order ignores victims’ privacy rights and delivers a huge blow to ongoing efforts by advocates and Congress to reform the broken military justice system.
The President’s order substantially weakens the protections of Military Rule of Evidence 412 (MRE 412), the military’s version of the “rape shield rule,” which prohibits admission of evidence of a victim’s prior sexual history and orientation unless ruled admissible by a military judge. Although MRE 412 is meant to apply only to courts-martial, this rule has been applied inconsistently, with many investigating officers (IO’s) permitting consideration of such evidence during Article 32 hearings. Victims’ advocates like Protect Our Defenders have been fighting to eliminate the de facto admission of this evidence during Article 32 hearings in an effort to protect victim privacy and to ensure that trained military judges alone have authority to make decisions on admissibility at trial.