Thursday, July 3, 2014

Liberty (the UK human rights organization) releases report on military justice

The London-based human rights organization Liberty (more formally, the National Council for Civil Liberties) has just released a report titled Military Justice: Proposals for a Fair and Independent Military Justice System, by Sara Ogilvie and Emma Norton. A central theme of the report is the need for independence in the administration of military justice:
Independence and impartiality is a core feature of all credible justice systems. In a democracy, it is vitally important that bodies such as the police and the composite elements of a tribunal – such as judge and jury – are free from executive and external pressures. They must be able to decide a case on the basis of the relevant law and facts, free from intentional or unintentional bias, disregarding any extraneous factors. It is only in this way that individuals can be sure that their case will be decided fairly and in accordance with law. In the past, when recommendations have been made to increase the independence of armed forces oversight the refrain has been “that’s not the military’s way”. It is explained that in the military, it is essential for discipline and morale that the chain of command is respected and is seen to have complete control over the troops. The argument is made that because the armed forces are different, it is important that justice is meted out among peers from within the services rather than the population at large. It is suggested that increasing independence in the military justice system will undermine the chain of command and therefore risk the effectiveness of the forces and even endanger the lives of the troops. This is an assumption that we think it is essential to challenge. [P. 15.]

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