Friday, January 20, 2017

April Fool's Day comes early in North Dakota

Thanks to the Editor's old friend UCLA Law Prof. Eugene Volokh, we learn of an amazingly stupid proposal to put active and retired military personnel (appointed by the state's adjutant general) in control of judicial discipline in North Dakota. Yes, you read that right. Here's the article.

New U.S. administration takes office at noon

Donald J. Trump succeeds Barack Obama as President of the United States at noon today. Will the change have any impact on military justice and its reform? Here is a first cut at things to look for:
  • Who will be general counsel of the Department of Defense? The GC's power over military justice is limited but he or she could still be influential.
  • The Manual for Courts-Martial will have to be amended to accommodate the Military Justice Act of 2016, including such critical matters as the provision of uniform tours of duty (dare we call them terms of office?) for military judges. Will the next round of changes -- or the process by which they are generated -- be different from what they would otherwise have been given the change of administration?
  • What will be the new administration's position with respect to sexual assault in the armed forces? Will it take further action or will it roll things back?
  • Who will be the service general counsels? They can be influential in overseeing the boards for correction of military and naval records.
  • Will the new administration undertake any military justice initiatives that require legislation, such as finally fixing the indefensible 30+ year old denial of access to the Supreme Court in the numerous court-martial cases in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF) denies discretionary review?
  • Who will President Trump appoint to succeed CAAF Chief Judge Charles E. "Chip" Erdmann, whose term expires on July 31, 2017?
  • Who will be the Solicitor General, an official who plays a major role in military cases before the Supreme Court? Will the new SG have any background in military justice?
  • Will the new administration shift the current military commission cases to the Article III civilian courts, or will it stay the current course?
  • Will the new administration decrease or increase the detainee population at Guantanamo Bay Naval Station?
  • Will there be any effect on military capital cases? No death sentence can be carried out without the affirmative approval of the President.
  • What will be President Trump's clemency policy for military cases?
Can you think of other military justice issues that might be affected by the change of administration? Comments are welcome (real names only, of course).

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Pakistan military wants 1-year extension of military courts

Here is an excerpt from the latest report out of Pakistan:
According to Lieutenant General Talat Masood, a senior defence analyst, the military wants an extension in the special courts for valid reasons because the government failed to bring judicial reforms in the last two years. 
According to him, a one-year extension should be given to the military courts and at the same time the government should also make legislation to strengthen the judicial system – providing protection to the prosecution and witnesses. 
He said “military courts were established because of the loopholes in our judicial system that is unable to punish hardcore terrorists,” adding the government needed to undertake measures to strengthen the judicial system. “Once a strong judicial system with protection to prosecution and witnesses is in place, reliance on military courts would come to a natural end,” he added.

Why are these cases in a military court?

National Security Court
Al Jazeera reports that a number of civilians and military retirees have been arrested with a view to trial before a military for, among other things, insulting the king on social media. Excerpt:
A Jordanian military court has charged eight activists with "insulting the King" and "incitement to spread chaos to undermine the political regime of Jordan using social media", lawyers said. 
The General Intelligence Directorate (GID), the "Mukhabarat" in Arabic, last week arrested civilian opposition activists, including retired army and intelligence generals, a former MP, a former high-ranking government official and several teachers.
Human rights norms strongly disfavor the trial of civilians and military retirees in military courts. 

Backgrounder on Moroccan retrial

Aujourd'hui Le Maroc has this curtain-raiser en français on the upcoming retrial in the Gdeim Izik case. In 2010, 11 security personnel were killed at a protest encampment. The Sahrawi accuseds were tried in a military court even though they were civilians. Thereafter Morocco promulgated a new Constitution under which it is affording them a retrial before the civilian Court of Appeal in Salé. Family members of the victims have been made parties to the case.