Sunday, May 18, 2014

Civilian v. military trial in Zimbabwe

Cases involving claims that offenses by military personnel should be tried in civilian court seem to be popping up everywhere. An interesting variant is this case from Zimbabwe, where an Army officer is seeking to be tried in the High Court rather than a court-martial because the pay scam he is accused of having perpetrated affected every serving member of the Zimbabwe National Army.
“I later learnt that the respondents intend to charge me on the allegations that I unlawfully deducted money from all employees’ salaries in the Zimbabwe National Army including the respondents and all personnel who constitute the court martial,” [Captain John] Mambewu said in an affidavit attached to the application.
Editor's note: This case does not raise the larger jurisdictional issue of where civilian type offenses such as larcency or fraud ought to be prosecuted, but what should happen where every possible court-martial panel member will be disqualified because he or she is a victim of the offense. A longstanding legal principle--the Rule of Necessity--holds that where all are disqualified, none are disqualified. See Will v. United States, 442 U.S. 200, 213-16 (1980), Here, however, there is the alternative of trial in a civilian court where the problem of disqualification for cause of all potential decision makers would not arise.

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