Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Year in Global Military Justice Reform

As the calendar year ends (and Global Military Justice Reform approaches its first anniversary), it's time to take stock of 2014:

It's a mixed bag. On the one hand, a number of countries have embraced reactionary measures such as subjecting civilians to trial by court-martial or have failed to take decisive action to reform their systems, continuing to dither for a host of reasons. Other countries have passed reform legislation but failed to put it into effect in a timely manner. Some countries have enacted measures to deal with specific types of military criminality but failed to grasp the nettle of structural reform. Some have been slow to impose military death sentences, while others seem to hand them out like party favors. One thing that stands out in a few countries is the stately pace of the administration of military justice, despite the common belief that it is a virtue of military justice that it is swifter than civilian justice. If there is one overall good-news story, it is that voices of reform are out there and working to make themselves heard. Conferences have been held or are on the drawing board around the world, and the news media more seem as alert than ever to developments in the field. International organizations such as the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as well as regional human rights bodies and national and international NGOs are also on the case. So overall, 2014 counts as a good year.

May I have the envelope please?

Worst Development of the Year: Expansion of Egyptian military court jurisdiction over civilians. Over a thousand civilians have been referred for military trial, including some whose alleged offenses occurred before the decree. For this, Egypt receives the George III Prize for Most Retrograde Development.

Best Development of the Year: Military Justice Improvement Act gaining 55 votes in the U.S. Senate. While 55 is not 60, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D.-NY) still receives the S.T. Ansell Award for Best Reform [Effort]. There's always next year.
Brig. Gen. S.T. Ansell

Most Opaque Military Justice System: China. Hands down (although North Korea was a contender until the system crashed).

Best Post(s): Prof. Steve Vladeck's monumental series on Military Courts and Article III. Thanks again, Steve.

Prof. Steve Vladeck
Best Comment: We've been blessed with a number of insightful comments, many of them from such regulars as Justice Létourneau, Cols. Drapeau and Sullivan, Cdr. Cave, Maj. Singh, Brig. Paphiti, Christina Cerna, and Sinologist-in-Chief Susan Finder, to name a few. It's impossible to choose, so everyone who commented is hereby deemed to have been mentioned in dispatches. We've also received a few anonymous comments that were worthwhile, but these are not posted as a matter of editorial policy. If you were one of those shy commenters, "come out, come out, wherever you are."

Most-Blogged-About Country: The United States. Your editor hasn't run all the numbers (we've had over 1000 posts), but there have been many about developments in Canada, the UK, Egypt, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, and Malaysia. On the whole, and considering the language limitations, the "Global" in Global Military Justice Reform is a reality.

Most Appealing Accused (also Best Illustration): Major Zaidi Ahmad, Royal Malaysian Air Force (accused in The Indelible Indelible Ink Case).

Major Zaidi Ahmad, RMAF
Do we need to add another year-end category? Please tell us (with your nominee), using the Comments feature (and your real name).


  1. A bouquet of thank-you's to Professor Fidell for his outstanding work. This has become an invaluable source of information. It is lively, up-to-date and most interesting. By having a glimpse as to what is happening in numerous countries, one gain a sense of encouragement of the possibilities, necessities and realities of reform in others.

    I, for one, would like to know more about either the successful development in military law or cries for reforms to military justice in and throughout the various US national guards organizations.

  2. Thank you, Gene, for giving me the opportunity to unpack parts of the Chinese military legal and military justice system. With the military legal reforms that are and will be implemented post 4th Plenum, there will be more China articles to come!


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