(WASHINGTON) — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has asked the Pentagon to review the way the military’s legal justice system processes cases in combat zones where U.S. troops have committed criminal offenses against civilians. In a memo released Friday Panetta said the review will look at cases where U.S. service members are “alleged to have caused the death injury or abuse of non-combatants in Iraq or Afghanistan.”
Panetta says the application of military justice remaining fair and credible in such cases “is of particular concern to me. We know that, over the last 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, bad things have happened involving combat excesses and innocent civilians in deployed areas.”
He’s ordered the creation of a new Pentagon Defense Legal Policy Board, that will be made of prominent legal experts and former military commanders. Among the former senior military leaders who will participate in the review are retired Army General Pete Chiarelli and retired Marine Lt. Gen. John Sattler.
A board subcommittee will be tasked with looking at how the U.S. military justice system can be improved given its experience in the past 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In announcing the review, Pentagon General Counsel Jeh Johnson said the group won’t be reviewing the judgments in individual cases like that of Sgt. Robert Bales, the alleged shooter in the murders of 16 Afghan civilians in March. Instead, they’ll look broadly at cases over the past decade and come up with recommendations for ways to improve reporting and working with local and national law enforcement officers.
The panel will have until next March to present its findings.
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