Military Tribunals Under Fire

The New York Times reports on new criticisms against the military commission trials at Guantanamo. A lot of the criticism is coming from military lawyers and judges. The predominant view: The commissions should be scrapped and courts-martial proceedings instituted in their place. Three of the main criticisms:

The military commission members serve as both judge and jury, and as the presiding officer is the only lawyer, the other members could defer to him on questions of law, giving him an unequal influence.

...there is no appeal to an independent judiciary as there is in courts-martial. Commission decisions may be appealed only within the military and not to federal courts.

Both the defense and, more recently, the prosecution have argued that most of the military officers serving on the five-member panel have personal conflicts and are unsuitable to sit in judgment.

What would Kerry-Edwards do?

Senator John Edwards, the Democratic vice-presidential nominee, in a speech after the August hearings, said that if Senator John Kerry and he were elected, they would see that any future trials were done along the lines of courts-martial.

Some international reaction:

Anthony Lester, a prominent international lawyer and member of the British House of Lords, said in an interview that the initial actions of the commission had only deepened his concern that the United States would be viewed as flouting the standards of justice. "I find it especially dispiriting that the world's most powerful country and the country that stands for democracy and the rule of law should be setting such a bad example for the rest of the world,'' said Lord Lester. "It undermines any coherent strategy for spreading democracy.''

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