(CNSNews.com) – The U.S. Army has reversed a decision to expel a decorated Green Beret for beating up an Afghan military officer who repeatedly raped a boy he kept chained to his bed.
The case of Sergeant 1st Class Charles Martland sparked debate about the stance of the U.S. military towards instances of customary sexual abuse by members of allied forces, triggered the introduction in Congress of legislation on the issue, and prompted hundreds of thousands of Americans to sign a petition supporting the Special Forces soldier.
News of the Army’s decision to retain Martland, first reported by Fox News late Thursday, came on the same day the Department of Defense launched a new sexual assault retaliation prevention and response strategy, aimed at improve the way the military supports service members who experience retaliation after reporting abuse.
“Wherever sexual assault occurs – whether it’s on the front lines or here at home – it not only undermines our values, it undercuts our ability to execute our mission, which is to protect our people and make a better world for our children,” Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said at the Pentagon.
Martland did more than report the abuse he and others confronted in Kunduz province in 2011. He and his team leader, Captain Dan Quinn, reportedly beat up an Afghan police commander in defense of a boy who was being repeatedly raped.
Quinn was relieved of his command, and subsequently left the Army. Martland fought to be allowed to stay, an effort that led eventually to the Army’s decision, made public on Thursday.
The American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ), which spearheaded a letter-writing campaign and a petition on support of Martland, welcomed the Army’s reversal.
“The decision by the Army to retain this hero is long overdue and represents a significant victory for SFC Martland,” ACLJ Chief Counsel Jay Sekulow said.
“Justice has been served. The U.S. military has a moral obligation to stop child sexual abuse and exonerate SFC Martland for defending a child from rape,” he said. “The Army finally took the corrective action needed and this is not only a victory for SFC Martland, but for the American people as well.”
More than 66,000 Americans sent letters organized by the ACLJ to Carter and Acting Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy calling for Martland to be retained, while a petition drew more than 340,000 signatures.
During his battle to stay in the Army, Martland also won the support of members of Congress, led by Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), who in an op-ed last September expressed the hope that Carter would “do the right thing and put one of our most elite and ethical warriors above an admitted rapist.”
Last month Hunter introduced the “Mandating America’s Responsibility To Limit Abuse, Negligence and Depravity (MARTLAND) Act, which says it shall be U.S. policy that rights violations including child abuse will not be conducted or condoned on any U.S. military installation anywhere, by U.S. or foreign nationals.
In an earlier initiative, a resolution introduced last September by Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) expressed the sense of Congress that U.S. service personnel “should not be punished for standing up to child rapists; putting the interests of Afghan rapists ahead of American war heroes is a national disgrace; the Americans who should be punished are those who created the policy that encourages members of the Armed Forces to ignore child rape; and the Department of Defense should order Sergeant First Class Charles Martland’s reinstatement in the Army.”