Thursday, May 26, 2016

Get thee back to jail

Haaretz reports:
The Military Court at Ofer recently denied the IDF’s request to reimprison Mohammad Zdaka, who was freed as a gesture to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in 2008.
The court ruled that the army’s conduct was unjust and unjustifiable, and that the request to return Zdaka to prison was prompted by his filing for compensation for the four years he served in prison from 2010 to 2014.
This report comes on the heels of criticism of Israeli military justice noted by Gene the other day.

Legislation on little cat feet

n., complainer, complaint; v.t., to complain (Yiddish; Eng., colloq.) 
As part of the FY17 National Defense Authorization Act, Congress is on the verge of passing major military justice legislation. The numerous major and minor changes are based overwhelmingly on an Obama administration proposal that grew out of the work of the Pentagon's Military Justice Review Group.

The House Report, H. Rep. No. 114-537, can be found here. The military justice provisions start at p. 600. The report correctly states that the changes "represent the first comprehensive revision of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in decades." The Senate Report, S. Rep. No. 114-255, can be found here. The report includes a potpourri of military justice changes; the comprehensive revision portion begins at p. 589.
Legislative consideration of the proposed UCMJ changes has been conducted in secret in both chambers. There has been one closed briefing, that we know of. Presumably, there has been a good deal of back-and-forth between House and Senate Armed Services Committee staffs, on the one hand, and the Defense Department, on the other. And we know of stray correspondence that the Hill has received (from the ABA, of all places) objecting to parts of the legislation. What's missing is hearings that are open to the public, and in which competing viewpoints can be heard and tested.

Shame on Congress for conducting the public's business in this fashion on an issue as important as military justice. "Public Law" is not a figure of speech. It is difficult to think of a more effective -- or more profoundly scandalous -- way to erode public confidence in the administration of military justice than to frame legislation, effectively, in secret.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Military court trial for jailbreaking

The News International reports:
The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday suspended death sentence of a person who was convicted by the military court for breaking Bannu Jail. 
A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali heard the appeal of one Muhammad Arabi, who was awarded death sentence by the military court for breaking Bannu Jail. 
Counsel for the appellant submitted before the court that the military court without hearing his client had awarded the death sentence. The court while suspending the sentence issued notice to the respondents and adjourned the hearing for indefinite period. 
The Chief Justice directed the court office to club all the appeals of the convicts, who were awarded sentence by military courts.

South Africa's military and judicial supremacy

The following article suggests a coming crisis in judicial oversight of military personnel actions in South Africa:
South African National Defence Force (SANDF) chief Solly Shoke says he will approach the court to seek clarity on the jurisdiction of civilian courts to intervene in military disciplinary matters.
He was speaking at briefing in Pretoria yesterday, where he announced the recall to duty of about 500 soldiers who have been on special leave since 2009.
The members were part of violent protests at the Union Buildings.
The South African National Defence Union (SANDU) has on several occasions successfully challenged the lawfulness of the disciplinary action taken against the soldiers.
Shoke says the SANDF wanted to deal with the matters as quickly as possible, but they’ve been frustrated by continued court action.
“I will be approaching the courts so that we can address the boundary issues as it impacts discipline in the Defence Force.”
Shoke says that he’s not ruled out the possibility of further attempts to discipline the soldiers.
He adds the main reason for the recall was his discomfort with paying soldiers who are sitting at home.
SANDU says the soldiers have been at home for the past 80 months, at a salary bill of about R7 million a month.
The history of miscues on the part of SANDF's personnel management apparatus has seemed fairly obvious, and the notion of placing blame on the courts strikes one as a clear case of blaming the messenger. The courts have several times rejected SANDF's attempts to apply procedural shortcuts in dealing with the demonstrators. Also, last time we looked, the country had no military judges who could actually preside at courts-martial.

The duelists return

"It's clear that nothing has changed despite the military's claim that things have gotten better," [Sen. Kirsten] Gillibrand, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services personnel subcommittee, said at a news conference on Tuesday.

[Sen. Claire] McCaskill's office takes issues with the findings in the Gillibrand report.

"Not one of the cases examined in this report was handled in the newly reformed military justice system — so while this is an interesting examination of the previous system, it's largely irrelevant to this year's debate," said John LaBombard, a McCaskill spokesman.

Quoted in this NBC News report 

Editor's query: And when Congress enacts this year's NDAA's UCMJ changes, will opponents of commander-centric disposition-authority reform say we have to wait until we see data on conviction rates under those changes as well? When do we stop kicking the reform can down the legislative road?