Army Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland is going to be forced to leave the Army by Nov. 1 after being reprimanded for intervening to stop a child rape in Afghanistan.
According to reports, Martland, a Green Beret, found an Afghani unit commander had a small boy held captive and was sexually assaulting the boy.
Martland intervened on the boy’s behalf, and was given a negative mark on his record; many suspect the U.S. military routinely discouraged troops from intervening in such sexual assaults and used Martland as an example.
Now, outraged American citizens are standing up for Martland. Sen. John McCain’s, who serves as Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, was handed copies of petitions this weekend that held 130,000 signatures from concerned American citizens.. Next week, the petitions will also be delivered to House Armed Service Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., asked Defense Secretary Ash Carter to review the case, saying he has little confidence that the Army leaders will admit they made an error in deciding to punish Martland.
On the 23rd of September, Martland’s appeal was dismissed by the Army.
“I hope that when making a decision between supporting an elite warrior like Martland or a child rapist and criminal, the organizations or individuals in a position to make a decision will side with Martland,” Hunter said in a letter to Carter earlier this month.
The State Department, in its annual human rights report, has consistently said that sexual abuse of children remains pervasive in Afghanistan. And it documents the practice called “bacha bazi” — which means dancing boys. Bacha Bazi involves the sexual abuse of boys, often by powerful or wealthy local businessmen, who sexually abuse young boys trained to dance in female clothes.
In its 2014 report, the State Department said that many child sexual abusers are not arrested, and “there were reports security officials and those connected to the ANP (Afghan National Police) raped children with impunity.”
A number of U.S. House and Senate members have asked the Army about Martland’s case.
Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., sent a letter to Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, calling for the Pentagon to reverse what he said was its policy of ignoring sexual abuse of children in Afghanistan.
“It is bad enough if the Pentagon is telling our soldiers to ignore this type of barbaric and savage behavior, but it’s even worse if we are punishing those who try to stop it,” said Buchanan in the letter. “The only people who should be punished are the ones who created and condoned this immoral and savage code.”
According to Hunter and others familiar with the 2011 incident, Martland acted professionally. But Hunter said that a commanding general signed an order of reprimand against Martland saying his conduct during the incident was inexcusable and “demonstrates a flagrant departure from the integrity, professionalism and even-tempered leadership I expect from all soldiers of this command, especially a special forces professional.”
According to defense officials, an investigation into the incident resulted in what the Army calls an “adverse action” — essentially a black mark — on Martland’s personnel record. Under the Army review process, soldiers can be forced out if their performance doesn’t mean the standards for continued service.
The New York Times reported that Martland and Dan Quinn, a former Special Forces captain, beat up an Afghan militia commander who was working with the Americans but also was discovered to have kept a boy chained to his bed as a sex slave
The Associated Press contributed to this article