OTTAWA—An Armed Forces soldier acquitted of sexually assaulting a female subordinate has been ordered to stand trial again.

Andre Gagnon was charged following an allegation by Stephanie Raymond, who said she was assaulted following a 2011 party near Quebec City.

The Supreme Court of Canada is seen in Ottawa last week. The Supreme Court of Canada sided with the Defence Department, saying Andre Gagnon’s defence of his belief that Stephanie Raymond agreed to the sex, should never have been allowed.
The Supreme Court of Canada is seen in Ottawa last week. The Supreme Court of Canada sided with the Defence Department, saying Andre Gagnon’s defence of his belief that Stephanie Raymond agreed to the sex, should never have been allowed.  (JUSTIN TANG / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO)

At Gagnon’s court martial, the military judge told the five-man jury it could consider Gagnon’s defence that he had a “sincere but erroneous” belief Raymond had agreed to sex.

The Defence Department challenged the verdict and requested a new trial, stating the military judge committed an error in his instructions to the jury.

In a unanimous decision delivered from the bench Tuesday, the Supreme Court of Canada sided with the Defence Department, saying the defence of a “sincere but erroneous” belief should never have been allowed.

Gagnon, a warrant officer, claimed at his court martial that the sex was consensual. The prosecution argued that he used his superior rank to coerce Raymond, a corporal at the time, into the acts. Raymond requested at the proceedings that her identity not be shielded by a publication ban.

It is not the first time the case has made it to the country’s highest court. In 2016, the court rejected a motion by Gagnon arguing that courts martial held under the National Defence Act violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantee of prosecutorial independence.

Raymond first filed a complaint in 2012. Gagnon was acquitted following a court martial two years later.

Raymond’s case is considered one of the catalysts that led to the launch of Operation Honour by the Canadian Armed Forces in July 2016 to combat sexual misconduct.

The Army Court Martial may have passed the sentence keeping in mind the pressure on the Army following the Supreme Court’s intervention in the Manipur extrajudicial killings.

Vivan Eyben 15 Oct 2018

Indian Para Commandos | Image Credit: Wikipedia Creative Commons

Indian Para Commandos | Image Credit: Wikipedia Creative Commons

An Army Court Martial has sentenced seven Army personnel to life imprisonment for the 1994 Dangari fake encounter in Tinsukia, Assam. Major General AK Lal, Colonels Thomas Matthew and RS Sibiren, Captains Dilip Singh and Jagdeo Singh, and Naiks Albinder Singh and Shivender Singh were convicted in the Court Martial. The decision of the Court Martial, though delayed, is welcome. However, the timing of the decision is worth pondering over.

The extrajudicial killings occurred in 1994 after Rameshwar Singh, the general manager of Assam Frontier Tea Limited was gunned down by members of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) in Talap Tea Estate. Members of the 18 Punjab Regiment based in Dhola picked up nine youths subsequently from different locations around the tea estate.

Jagdish Bhuyan, who was associated with both AASU as well as the Asom Gana Parishad, informed the police about the young men’s detention by the army. Bhuyan then filed a habeas corpus petition in the Guwahati High Court. The army produced four of those detained at different locations in the state. The remaining five were taken by boat to the Dibru Saikhowa National Park, and were shot dead. The army claimed that they had shot ULFA extremists; the police, however, stated that the post-mortem report noted signs of torture – gouged out eyes, slashed tongues, smashed knee caps and signs of electrocution.

The Hindu reported that one of the survivors opined that the five had been killed since their bodies bore signs of more severe torture than the other four. Hence, the army wanted to ‘dispose’ of the evidence.

The timing of the decision is interesting since the army has come under fire of late for excesses committed during counter-insurgency operations. A Bench of the Supreme Court of India comprising Justice Madan B Lokur  and Justice UU Lalit have ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry into extrajudicial executions committed by the security forces – paramilitary and army personnel – in Manipur.

The Supreme Court recognized the gravity of the matter in its Judgement on July 14, 2017, and appointed retired Supreme Court Judge Justice Santosh Hegde to review over 1,500 cases of alleged fake encounters. The Justice Hegde Commission submitted its report finding that out of the cases they had picked at random, they concluded that all of them required a proper investigation The findings resulted in the Supreme Court directing the CBI to investigate and file charge-sheets.

Despite dragging its feet, the CBI finally filed around 31 chargesheets against armed forces and Manipur police personnel by August 29, 2018. However, by then, certain new developments had taken place. The situation in Jammu and Kashmir had been steadily deteriorating since 2016. In the course of the rising levels of civil disobedience and violence, on January 27 this year, the 10 Garhwal Rifles opened fire in Shopian district in Jammu and Kashmir, in which three young men were killed. The Jammu and Kashmir police filed a first information report (FIR) against Major Aditya Kumar, as he was the concerned commanding officer. This prompted one of the strangest and perhaps most dangerous petitions to be filed in the Supreme Court.

The accused Major Aditya Kumar’s father, Lieutenant Colonel Karamveer Singh filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking to quash the FIR. His petition has been supported by the union government. The crux of the petition is to interpret section 7 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in all its avatars – each ‘disturbed area’ has a separate AFSPA, though the text is the same – to mean that investigation also comes within the ambit of ‘other legal proceeding’.

Section 7 states: “[N]o prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the Central Government, against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act.” Hence, sanction would have to be sought even before an investigation can start.

As this matter had been admitted by the Supreme Court, and the CBI’s noose tightened on the trigger-happy officers, they pushed to implead themselves in Lieutenant Colonel Karamveer Singh’s petition. At present, around 700 officers – whether connected to counter-insurgency operations or not – are impleaded.

Though the Chief of Army Staff, General Bipin Rawat, has made clear his displeasure that the officers are approaching the Supreme Court; this may in reality be due to the fear that the officers could lose the case. In this case, the Supreme Court may end up passing Orders that would regulate AFSPA’s operation.

Against this backdrop, though a welcome decision, the Army Court Martial may just be an attempt to portray the Army as a professional and disciplined institution, despite a plethora of unpunished wrongs. It may just be a vain hope that the Court Martial decision will influence how the Supreme Court will approach matters concerned with AFSPA.

A US marine has been jailed for an unprovoked, unexplained attack on a 60-year-old woman left traumatised by the barrage of punches to her head.

Lance Corporal Taylor Wyatt Elwood, 20, was drunk and can’t remember punching and throwing the woman against a guard rail and cars at Brisbane’s Enoggera barracks car park about 3.30pm on July 3.

As he attacked after dragging her from her car, she screamed for help as loudly as she could.

He told her “just be quiet” in a tone she described as having “no emotion”.

The woman, a barracks staffer, said she felt she had no control of her body but “willed herself not to black out”.

“(He seemed) obsessed with her head and kept banging it and punching it over and over,” police prosecutor Glenn Whittle said.

“She felt like a rag doll being thrown around. She believed she was going to die.”

When two men stopped after seeing Elwood standing over the bloodied victim, he grabbed, punched and bit one of them who was a federal police officer.

The woman escaped with bruises and lacerations for which she was hospitalised.

Elwood will spend three months in jail after pleading guilty to two counts of assault.

He will be dishonourably discharged and possibly court-martialled by the US Marine Corp upon release, while the woman has been so psychologically impacted she has not been able to return to work.

After the attack, he wrote to the woman to say sorry but Magistrate Tina Previtera noted the victim deemed it a “hollow” apology since it did not say why he had done it.

“It was so violent it’s a surprise there aren’t more physical injuries, Ms Previtera said.

“There are, as a result of the incident, indentations to her own vehicle where her head was slammed into it.

“You’re a young, able-bodied, strong US marine and given the complainant is a 60-year-old woman who you have never met, she had never met you, the violence visited upon her was frightening.”

Defence solicitor Dave Garratt said Elwood could not explain his actions but speculated someone in a car resembling the victim’s had yelled out to him earlier.

Mr Garratt said Elwood, from New Mexico, had a high sensitivity to alcohol given he was not of legal drinking age in the US.

The promising football player, who chose the marines over a college scholarship, had seen his career go “up in flames” over the incident, Mr Garratt said.

“He’s not only brought shame to himself but the US Marine Corp and also to his country,” Mr Garratt said.

Magistrate Previtera labelled his offending “completely out of character” given his “impeccable record of service” and accepted his remorse.

She handed him a 15-month jail sentence to be suspended after three months.

He will also pay $3000 restitution to the woman.

His unit will depart for the US without him on Sunday.

Bahraini princess, Meriam Al-Khalifa, U.S. Marine Lance Corporal Jason Johnson

Bahrani princess Meriam Al-Khalifa and US Marine Lance Corporal Jason Johnson.NBC/Getty Images

  • In 1999, Lance Cpl. Jason Johnson met Meriam al-Khalifa, and the two began a love affair. 
  • Johnson was stationed at the Navy’s base in Bahrain, and Meriam was a member of the royal family’s house of Khalifa.
  • Despite threats of a court martial, a legal battle, and assassination attempts by the house of Khalifa, Johnson smuggled Meriam into the US and the two got married. 

There are roughly 8,500 US personnel stationed at the Navy’s base in Bahrain. In 1999, one of those, Lance Cpl. Jason Johnson, faced a court-martial and legal battle to wed his beloved girlfriend, a Bahraini local named Meriam. The Marine met Meriam at a local mall and, over the objections of her family, the two continued their love affair.

The biggest problem is that Meriam’s full name is Meriam bint Abdullah al-Khalifa, and she was a member of the royal family’s house of Khalifa. So, when Lance Cpl. Johnson smuggled her out of Bahrain and into the United States, it was kind of a big deal.

It wasn’t just that she was a member of the royal family, her family’s Islamic faith was incompatible with Johnson’s Mormon beliefs. She was forbidden to marry a non-Muslim, by both her religion and her family. There was also an age difference, as Johnson was 23 years old and Meriam al-Khalifa was just 19.

Meriam Al-Khalifa and Jason Johnson

Al-Khalifa and Johnson on NBC. Kevork Djansezian/AP Photo

There were a lot of reasons why they shouldn’t have gotten married, but with the help of a friend, they still managed to exchange letters. Their affection for one another only grew.

Until it was time for Johnson to return to the United States.

Undeterred by things like “passports” and “legal documents,” he snuck the girl into the United States with forged documents and a New York Yankees baseball hat. By the time they landed in Chicago,  US immigration officials were waiting for Meriam , and took her into custody.

Meriam was held for three days by customs and immigration officials. Eventually, she was granted asylum as she worried about the possibility of honor-related violence if she returned to her family.

Meriam Al Khalifa

Princess Al Khalifa, 19, holds hands with her husband US Marine Jason Johnson as they arrive for Al Khalifa’s political asylum hearing. Denis Poroy/AP Photo

“She does not believe that she can go back and be safe at this time,” her lawyer, Jan Bejar said at an official hearing. “All the woman did is try to leave a country that does not allow her to live with the person she wants to live with.”

They were married just a few weeks after arriving in the United States. Weeks later, her family sent a letter, forgiving her for eloping, but not mentioning her new husband. For a while, the two lived in base housing on Camp Pendleton, but when the Marines found out what had happened, they were understandably upset with Johnson. He was court-martialed, demoted, and eventually left the Corps.

The two settled down to live their lives together in the Las Vegas area where Johnson got a job as a valet, parking cars for wealthy nightclub patrons — patrons like Meriam’s family. The al-Khalifa family hadn’t forgotten about Meriam or Johnson. The FBI alleged that the family paid an assassin half a million dollars to find Meriam and kill her.

But their married life wasn’t everything it was cracked up to be. Johnson told the Associated Press that al-Khalifa was more interested in partying in Las Vegas than she was in enjoying life with her husband, spending the money they made from selling their story to a made-for-TV movie called,  The Princess and the Marine . By 2003, the whirlwind romance came to a dead stop, buried in the Las Vegas desert.

Johnson filed for divorce in 2004, saying “it was what she wanted.”

“Deep down inside, she knows that I loved her more than anything in the world,” Johnson told the AP. “I can say I enjoyed every minute I spent with her.”


The U.S. Air Force Academy cadets march into Falcon Stadium in Colorado Springs, Colo.(Mike Kaplan/Air Force)

 

U.S. Air Force Academy Cadet 2nd Class Armis J. Sunday is facing an Article 32 hearing Tuesday, his second such court appearance in just two-and-a-half months.

He is charged with two violations of Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice for the alleged sexual assault of a victim who was drunk and incapable of consent, and two specification of violating Article 120c for wrongfully photographing and distributing a photograph of another’s private area.

Sunday appeared at an Article 32 hearing on July 18 after he was charged with a different sexual assault. That charge was referred to general court-martial, with arraignment planned for Tuesday and the trial scheduled for Jan. 28. In the interim, however, new allegations came to light from a second victim, resulting in the additional charges.

The second Article 32 hearing, which is similar to a civilian grand jury proceeding, was ordered to determine whether the additional charges are supported by the evidence, according to a Friday news release from the academy.

The preliminary hearing officer will then submit a report with recommendations to the commandant of cadets, the special court-martial convening authority in this case. The commandant can dismiss the case, recommend to the academy superintendent, who is the general court-martial convening authority, that it be referred to general court-martial, or dispose of the case through other disciplinary or administrative action.