Yesterday’s program at the Rhodes Conference on military jurisdiction saw more debate on the wisdom and practicality of civilian v. military jurisdiction. Speakers detailed the integration of civilians into the prosecution of military personnel in some European systems and discussed the perils and advantages of trying some civilians in military courts (termed an “explosive” issue by Dr. Rain Liivoja, a research fellow at the Asia Pacific Centre for Military Law).
I chaired a panel that made clear how much national military justice practices have changed, and how international law regarding military justice has deepened, in the last decade. Retired Major General Nilendra Kumar, former Judge Advocate General of the Army and now Director of Amity Law School, described the changes wrought by the 2007 Armed Forces Tribunal Act in India; Robert Husbands of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights traced the evolution of international legal norms regarding military courts; Panagiotis Kremmydiotis, Chief Prosecutor of the Athens Air Force Military Tribunal canvassed the wide variation in national approaches to providing fair military trials; 1Lt Gergely Toth of Hungary summarized the reports of countries who participated in a well-attended 2010 military criminal law conference; and Christina Cerna, Principal Human Rights Specialist with the Organization of American States, analyzed the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights regarding military courts.
I was left with a sense of widespread and growing international interest in military justice but only limited convergence in terms of aspirations and current practice. Dramatic political changes – a new Constitution in Kenya, a new regime in Hungary, and many others –are spurring changes in national military legal processes that defy easy generalization.