OTHER VOICES

Open justice needed in Bales case

Posted March 29, 2012, at 5:14 p.m.

If there’s a single outcome that will show that the United States succeeded in its military mission to Afghanistan, it will be that the rule of law has been established.

In the 10 years since Americans have been there, we’ve had victories — as well as horrific setbacks.

One of those setbacks could, if not handled properly, jeopardize the progress of the entire past decade.

On March 11, nine Afghan children and eight adults, all civilians, were shot in cold blood in their homes near an army base housing U.S. soldiers. One of them, Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, has been accused of pulling the trigger.

Since his arrest, Bales has been spirited away from the country where the crime occurred and jailed at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. He was charged with 17 counts of murder, and if he is convicted, he might face the death penalty. He also faces many other charges.

However, the process will continue through the military court system, which could mean less transparency for those who need to see the rule of law in action the most: the Afghan public.

At almost every turn, the military has worked to restrict the flow of information about the case, which is too bad. It would be easy to imagine the reaction if a foreign national had been accused of similar crimes on American soil and then moved to his or her home country for trial. The outrage would be incredible.

The Army must ensure open and accessible justice in this case. To do otherwise could undermine the entire reason for our presence in Afghanistan.

Loveland (Colo.) Daily Reporter-Herald (March 27)

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