Sunday, February 26, 2017

Okinawa NCIS sting

Japan Times reports on cases brought as a result of an NCIS sting program on Okinawa. Excerpt:
Since 2015, at least 36 U.S. service members on Okinawa have been arrested in child sex stings operated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. 
Those detained have belonged to all branches of the military — with marines in the majority — and their ranks have ranged from private to lieutenant colonel. Typically they have received sentences of between two and three years in military prison, and upon their release they will be required to register as sex offenders in the United States.

Leniency questioned in New Zealand

Stuff reporter Kirsty Lawrence has reviewed outcomes in years' worth of New Zealand military cases and concludes here that the country's military defendants get off light. She writes:
Nearly two dozen military personnel have faced charges of indecent assault and rape in the past two decades, newly released documents reveal. 
And while the majority of them were eventually found guilty, hardly any saw the inside of a prison cell, and none of their crimes ended up on their civilian criminal records.
*   *   *
Since 1991, there have been 144 court martials [ouch] held in New Zealand. 
Information released under the Official Information Act showed that of those, 22 had charges that could be transferred to a civilian court. 
These included indecent assault, common assault and unlawful sexual connection, among a variety of other charges. 
Punishments and findings varied, with one indecent assault charge in 1996 finding the offender not guilty as they were "sleep-walking" at the time of the incident.
Many sentences were also quashed on appeal. Reduction in rank appeared to be the most common punishment.
The handful of comments are worth reading.
The author of this story is naive and has cherry-picked a few specific cases to try and paint the picture of an issue where there isn't one. The NZDF justice system can be absolutely brutal in punishing the most mundane of offences, many based on historical traditions more than any real world equivalent. Most of these offences are specific to the NZDF and would make the average person laugh due to the ridiculousness and wastefulness of it all.The author of this story is naive and has cherry-picked a few specific cases to try and paint the picture of an issue where there isn't one. The NZDF justice system can be absolutely brutal in punishing the most mundane of offences, many based on historical traditions more than any real world equivalent. Most of these offences are specific to the NZDF and would make the average person laugh due to the ridiculousness and wastefulness of it all.The author of this story is naive and has cherry-picked a few specific cases to try and paint the picture of an issue where there isn't one. The NZDF justice system can be absolutely brutal in punishing the most mundane of offences, many based on historical traditions more than any real world equivalent. Most of these offences are specific to the NZDF and would make the average person laugh due to the ridiculousness and wastefulness of it all.

Pakistan's political quandary

Global Military Justice Reform has been attempting to follow the back and forth in Pakistan over whether to revive the country's military courts' power to try civilians. That there is posturing and horse-trading going on among the parties is clear, and that's in the nature of politics. Whether the competing demands can be reconciled will be known, maybe, in the coming week. Will the 21st Amendment be revived? If so, for another two years, for three years, for a split-the-difference year-and-a-half? Will the former limitation to persons who act in the name of religion or sect be in a new measure, offensive as that must be to the religious parties? How will the measure affect Baluchistan or FATA?

But there's a more basic issue, and it starts with the notion that there is a class of suspects who are referred to as "jet-black terrorists." The authorities use this phrase as if doing so in itself justifies the use of military courts. But just what is the difference between a "jet-black terrorist" and any other terrorist? The number of victims? Their modus operandi? Or is the term simply there to scare the listener into shutting down his or her thought process and get in step? It does seem to be the latter, and the lack of pushback to it is cause for concern. The term corrupts the discourse.

It has been nearly two months since the 21st Amendment expired. (Indeed, Pakistan's political class knew as early as January 7, 2015 that it would be expiring in two years.) In those two months there has been a great deal of churning and burning, with countless meetings, briefings (although the public has no idea what was said in them), posturing, boycotts, and irreconcilable claims that there either was an impasse or stalemate or that basic agreement had been reached in the interest of national unity and security. In short, a lot of energy -- and some hot air -- has been expended.

That show of activity has been single-mindedly focused on the revival issue . . . and not the more fundamental problem that there would be no need for 21st Amendment courts if the regular court system were functioning -- even as to "jet-black" defendants. If a quarter of the energy that has been expended on revival negotiations had been spent on that continuing problem, it would have been solved long ago. Yet no effort at all seems to have been made in this direction. If half a dozen party leaders and two or three legislative drafters had been locked in a room for a day and given a laptop, a bill could easily have been generated. It could have been quickly rammed through the Parliament as regular legislation; after all, the 21st Amendment itself was rammed through even though it required supermajorities. Why hasn't this happened?

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Impunity in India?

The Wire has this story about offenses by Indian Army personnel. Excerpt:
In India, the army has its own military courts, whose trial and conviction rates are yet to be assessed. For civilians, in cases of rape, the National Crime Records Bureau data (from 2015) places the conviction rate at around 28%. With AFSPA still unaltered, we can imagine the corresponding statistics for the armed forces. 
One common fallacy regarding the army’s impunity must be clarified. Army officials are not immune under AFSPA [Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act] if they sexually assault women or commit rape. Section 7 of the Act provides protection from prosecution for “anything done…in exercise of the powers conferred”. These “powers” include causing death, search and arrest without warrant; and they cannot be taken as a token of liberty to sexually assault residents. But, under AFSPA-related offences, military personnel cannot be prosecuted unless there is a prior sanction by the central government. Responding to an RTI application filed by an NGO, the Jammu and Kashmir Home Department stated that “no sanction for prosecution has been intimated by the Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Defense to the State Government from 1990-2011 under the J&K Armed Forces Special Powers Act” (emphasis added). 
The Justice Verma Committee clearly suggested that no sanction from the Centre should be required if the person has been accused of committing sexual offence in the disturbed areas where the AFSPA operates. But this suggestion is yet to be adopted. In addition to all this, court martial case proceedings remain opaque. Amnesty International India has raised serious doubts over the manner in which investigations and trials are conducted in our military justice system.

Retrofitted military jurisdiction

In the Alice-in-Wonderland world of Pakistani courts, consider this case. The Peshawar High Court has stayed the execution of Mohammad Yousaf and has ordered the case clubbed (consolidated) with other similar challenges. Mr. Yousaf was among those convicted and sentenced to death by a military court authorized to try civilians under the country's now-expired 21st Amendment. Okay, we get all that. But here's the interesting part. The 21st Amendment was enacted in January 2015, yet (according to Dawn) Mr. Yousaf has been in custody for over six years, meaning the offense(s) of which he was convicted must have been committed four or more years before military trials were even authorized for civilians. In other words, military jurisdiction was extended to his and similar cases ex post facto.