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Hunter action also led Army to halt ouster of Sgt. Martland, Green Beret who ejected child rapist off U.S. base in Afghanistan

By Miriam Raftery

Photo: Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland, U.S. Army photo

May 21, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) –Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-San Diego) has introduced legislation to outlaw child rape and other human rights violations on U.S. military bases worldwide.  House Resolution 4717, the Mandating America’s Responsibility to Limit Abuse, Negligence and Depravity Act is also known as the Martland Act, named after Green Beret Army Sergeant 1st Class Charles Martland. 

Hunter, a former Marine combat veteran and member of the House Armed Services Committee, intervened to prevent the Army from booting out Sgt. Martland after Martland used force to remove an Afghan police commander who reportedly admitted raping a 14 year old boy.  U.S. solders had been ordered to turn a blind eye to the rape of children in Afghanistan under the guise of respecting “cultural practices.”  The Army Board for Correction of Military Records has confirmed that Martland will remain in the military, Army Times reported in late April.

The practice of child rape in Afghanistan is pervasive, according to multiple reports. HR 4717 states that in one report, a U.S. soldier stationed in Afghanistan stated, “At night we could hear [the boys] screaming but we’re not allowed to do anything about it.”

The New York Times also reported that U.S. soldiers were told to ignore abuse of boys by Afghan allies, a practice known as “bacha bazi,” which means “boy play.”  One soldier reported finding several men lying on a floor in a room on a U.S. base, with children between them under a sheet.

The policy to ignore such abuse occurred because Afghan militias and other Afghan allies were needed by the U.S. to combat the Taliban.   Allegations of abuse were deemed matters of domestic Afghan criminal law. But such laws too often protect abusers, as in the case of a man who raped a young teen girl.  They can also breed resentment among local residents in villages where children are abducted and victimized, as with the “tea boys” or servants sometimes forced into sexual slavery in Afghanistan.

Sgt. Martland was rated second among 400 Special Forces instructors. When he was approached in 2011 by an Afghan woman, visibly bruised, who told him her son had been raped by the U.S.-supported local police commander, Martland and another Green Beret confronted the commander, who admitted to repeatedly raping the boy but laughed off the matter.  Martland, who had previously dealt with another rape incident near his outpost and an honor killed, forcibly removed the commander and told him never to return.

For his actions, the Army relieved Martland of his duties and later tried to expel him from the military. After the issue was brought to Rep. Hunter’s attention, he states in his latest newsletter, “I identified deficiencies in the Army’s review process and a decision was recently made, after three extensions during consideration of the case, to retain Charles.”

Martland told Fox News he is “thankful for being able to continue to serve” and voiced appreciation to Congressman Hunter and his Chief of Staff, Joe Kasper.  Martland, whose wife is expecting twin boys, has announced plans to name one of them Duncan Hunter in honor of the Congressman.

The incident has prompted the Defense Department Inspector General to review U.S. policies on the prevalence of rape in Afghanistan. 

Hunter’s measure aims to make it U.S. policy that child rape or human rights violations will not be tolerated on any American bases or outposts. Hunter says the bill is “under discussion and receiving support from my colleagues.” 

The American Center for Law and Justice also joined efforts to keep Martland in the military.  Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel to the ACLJ, said of the Army’s decision, “Justice has been served,” adding that the U.S. military has a moral obligation to stop child sexual abuse.  He called the corrective action a victory not only for Martland, “but for the American people as well,” Fox News reported.

Regarding the need for his bill, Hunter has stated, “Somehow the Department of Defense doesn’t have a policy that forbids pedophilia and child rape on U.S. installations,” Washington Times reported. “They refuse to do the right thing in this case.”  If his bill becomes law, he added, “You’re not allowed to rape children on U.S. installations. It’s that simple.”

Retired Navy Commander Chris Harmer, now an analyst with the Institute for Understand War’s Middle East Security Project, has said that most nations have some social practices that the average American would find objectionable, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. He cited female genital mutilation in Africa and forced marriages of young girls as examples. “All of these are problematic and there’s no way for the U.S. military to address any of that,” Harmer said.

Hunter’s bill, if enacted, would change that, giving the Secretary of Defense 90 days to implement a policy halting sexual abuse on all U.S. military installations at home and overseas.

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