The Usefulness of a Negative Example: What We Can Learn About Evidence Rules from the Government's Most Recent Efforts to Construct a Military Commissions Process
31 Pages Posted: 30 May 2009
Date Written: May 29, 2009
The military commissions give us an opportunity to explore and reflect on whether the procedures to try alleged foreign terrorists or the procedures for some future military commission should follow the approach of the Bush administration. Looking back on the evidentiary scheme of the military commissions also gives us an opportunity to reflect on the application of the rules of evidence in military courts-martial and other criminal prosecutions.
To explore these issues, this paper will discuss the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and the Military Rules of Evidence. Why were these provisions created and how were they to be applied within the full spectrum of military operations? The paper will then compare the Military Rules of Evidence generally to the various approaches offered up in the military commissions system. What were the stated reasons for any changes and why did the President ultimately settle on the approach reflected in the Manual for Military Commissions? Are these reasons credible and are there other, perhaps unstated reasons for the rule changes? To the extent that we can determine the reasons for why the evidence rules were changed, can similar rationales apply to other criminal trials in the military context? The paper also asks if we are at an evidence cross-road. Are we at a point where we need to reexamine the way evidence is treated in military criminal cases tried under the UCMJ? For example, should certain combat exceptions be written in to the military rules of evidence? On the other hand, are the recent efforts to depart from the established rules of evidence in military commissions nothing more then an attempt to give the government an advantage over a class of defendants who it deems is not worthy of enjoying full protections of a fair trial?
Keywords: Evidence, Military Commissions, Military Law, National Security, International Law
JEL Classification: K14, K33, K41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation