Saturday, March 25, 2017

Canadian Military Justice -- by the numbers

Reforms of national military law is part of a worldwide movement in democratic countries; meanwhile Canada stands still. The worldwide trend is to transfer jurisdiction over criminal offences to civilian courts. This has been done in Austria; Belgium; Czech Republic; Denmark; France; Germany; Finland; Honduras; Italy; Japan; The Netherlands; Sweden; Switzerland; Tunisia etc. The objective being to ensure a judicial process free from the chain of command's interference.  Service members deserve a system of justice worthy of the Canadian principles that they have dedicated their lives to protect.  They deserve to have a fair and impartial system of justice that is transparent and accountable. This is currently not the case.

For the time being Canada appears to be satisfied with the 'status quo' in the result that its relatively small professional force consisting of 65,000 regulars are subject to a Canadian military penal system that is clearly behind the times. We will examine this in more details in subsequent posts.

What follows is, in point, form, the structural highlights of the Canada's current military justice system.

  • There were 47 courts-martial. The three offences tried most often were: a) Conduct to the Good Order and Discipline; b) Absence without leave; c) Failure to comply with conditions. The conviction rate was 87.2 per cent.
  • There were 721 summary trials. The three offences tried most often tried were: a) Absence Without Leave; b) Conduct to the Good Order and Discipline; c) Drunkenness. The conviction rate was 87.38 per cent. Two notices of appeal were filed by the convicted with the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada (CMAC).  One request for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada was filed by the Minister who also filed an appeal as a matter of right to the Supreme Court of Canada. 
  • There are 4 full-time military judges and a Court Martial Administrator. The Chief Military Judge wears the rank of Colonel. The three other judges serve in the rank of lieutenant-colonel. 
  • One of the military judges’ position is currently vacant. The three remaining military judges presided each over an average of 15 courts martial per year. 
  • This has to be considered as being an extraordinary low workload which cannot justify the significant expenditures to create and operate a separate judiciary. 
  • The importance of cost-saving measures and efficiency improvements alone suggests that the time has come to eliminate these specialized courts and to transfer their jurisdictions to civilian courts. 
  • The Judge Advocate General (JAG) wears the rank of Major-General. The JAG is not a judge. He does not perform any judicial functions. He is a legal advisor. The JAG reports directly to the Minister of National Defence.
  • There is a full-time Director of Military Prosecutions who serves under the general supervision of the JAG.
  • There is a full-time Director Defence Services Counsel who also serves under the general supervision of the JAG. 
  • There are approximately 170 military lawyers in the Regular Force. All serving under the command of the JAG. 
  • There are approximately 1,235 Military Police in the Regular Force consisting of 154 officers and 1,081 non-commissioned members
  • In 2015,  the MPs conducted approximately 11,500 (General Occurrences) investigations.
  • The military operates a Service Prison and Detention Barracks (SPDB) located in Edmonton. It provides imprisonment and detention services. The SPDB is not subject to reviews conducted by the Correctional Investigator of Canada.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Duterte watch

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is talking martial law . . . and military courts. Here's a news report.

AW Anniversary

On this day in 1774, George III signed the Articles of War. They became the model for the American Articles enacted by the Continental Congress on June 30, 1775, and are the ancestor of the Uniform Code of Military Justice as well as the military justice laws currently in force in a number of countries.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Cameroon's misuse of military court

Cameroon is trying an Anglophone barrister in a military court that will meet in secret, according to this account. Excerpt:
Barrister Agbor-Balla was arrested on 17 January 2017 and held incommunicado as a result of his involvement in protests and strikes by anglophone lawyers and teachers in West Cameroon against what they perceive as the marginalisation of the anglophone minority. The barrister was charged with a number of offences, including incitement to secession, civil war and revolution, and 'Hostilities against the Fatherland' - some of which carry the death penalty on conviction. On the same day, the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium over which Barrister Agbor-Balla presided was outlawed. 
IBAHRI [International Bar Association Human Rights Institute] Co-Chair Baroness Helena Kennedy QC reiterated: 'The arrest of Barrister Agbor-Balla by military authorities that now intend to prosecute, judge and sentence him is deeply troubling to the IBAHRI and the international community. That the military tribunal may be held in closed session is further cause for alarm. It is for these reasons that the IBAHRI is again compelled to intercede on Barrister Agbor-Balla's behalf, respectfully asking the Government of the Republic of Cameroon to abide by the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary and ensure that judicial proceedings are conducted fairly.' 
She added: 'We also draw the government's attention to the rights enshrined in the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, as well as the UN's Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, that have so far been denied to Barrister Agbor-Balla. These include his rights as an individual and a professional to personal liberty, free expression, association, protection from arbitrary arrest and the right to a fair trial.'

Guantanamo as a precedent

From yesterday's proceedings in the Senate of Pakistan:
PML-N’s Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qayyum had a totally supportive view of the government's stance and said that there was no harm in setting up military courts for speedy trial of hardcore terrorists, as it happened in developed countries like the US in circumstances Pakistan was passing through.
The News International has this detailed account of what sounds like a remarkable day in Islamabad.