Saturday, January 20, 2018

Still at it in Venezuela

Venezuela has tried two civilian taxi drivers along with eight Special Forces officers (one of whom was retired) in a military court, according to this report from Venezuela al Día.

Human rights norms strong disfavor the trial of civilians in military courts. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has also condemned the exercise of military jurisdiction over military retirees.

Shutdown and military justice (huh?)

Under the alarming headline "Shutdown could cause court martial for some troops in debt" we have this Federal News Radio piece by Scott Maucione to thank for the following unfortunate comments:
Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO of Blue Star Families, says the lack of savings combined with a period of no pay could put some service members in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

The code states any service member who borrows money and dishonorably fails to pay is in violation and shall be punished by a military court.

The maximum punishment is six months o[f] confinement. Obviously, a person’s military career is severely hampered if found guilty as well.
Let's look at the Manual for Courts-Martial, shall we? Paragraph 71 states the elements of the offense and provides an explanation:
b. Elements.
(1) That the accused was indebted to a certain person or entity in a certain sum;
(2) That this debt became due and payable on or about a certain date;
(3) That while the debt was still due and payable the accused dishonorably failed to pay this debt; and
(4) That, under the circumstances, the conduct of the accused was to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or was of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces
c. Explanation. More than negligence in nonpayment is necessary. The failure to pay must be characterized by deceit, evasion, false promises, or other distinctly culpable circumstances indicating a deliberate nonpayment or grossly indifferent attitude toward
one’s just obligations
. For a debt to form the basis of this offense, the accused must not have had a defense, or an equivalent offset or counterclaim, either in fact or according to the accused’s belief, at the time alleged. The offense should not be charged if there was a genuine dispute between the parties as to the facts or law relating to the debt which would affect the obligation of the accused to pay. The offense is not committed if the creditor or creditors involved are satisfied with the conduct of the debtor with respect to payment. The length of the period of nonpayment and any denial of indebtedness which
the accused may have made may tend to prove that the accused’s conduct was dishonorable, but the court-martial may convict only if it finds from all of the evidence that the conduct was in fact dishonorable. [Highlighting added.]
Honk if you think any member of the armed forces should be losing sleep for fear of a court-martial because s/he won't be able to make a car payment on time as a result of the shutdown.

The shutdown will certainly raise a host of legal concerns; this isn't one of them.

10 more cases approved for the gallows

Ten more men convicted by Pakistan's military courts have had their death sentences approved by the Chief of Army Staff. All 10 admitted their guilt. Details here; nothing about any legal issues the accused men raised.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Military courts gone wrong in Lebanon

From Voice of America we learn:
A Lebanese military court handed down a six-month prison sentence to a journalist for presenting views critical of the army, a court official told AFP said Thursday.

Hanin Ghaddar, also a researcher known for her criticism of the powerful Hezbollah movement, was sentenced in absentia on January 10 over an expose at a conference in the United States, the source said.

Her sentence sparked outrage among fellow journalists and academics in Lebanon, where they said free speech and freedom of the press were once again being challenged.

The court official said the ruling found Ghaddar, a US resident, guilty of "defaming the Lebanese army, harming its reputation and accusing it of distinguishing between Lebanese citizens."
Essentially every aspect of this case violates some cardinal principle of human rights.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Negligent homicide in naval mishaps

H/T to Don Rehkopf for inviting this Naval Institute Proceedings article by Captain Kevin S. Eyer, USN (Ret) to the Editor's attention.

Military justice proceedings occasioned by the fatal accidents involving USS John S. McCain and USS Fitzgerald are certain to grip the attention not only of observers within the Navy but in the other armed forces and in the country as a whole. It may be well to bear in mind, as always, the presumption of innocence and await a fuller development of the facts and circumstances before reaching conclusions not only as to anyone's culpability but also as to the wisdom of invoking the UCMJ process.