Military Justice, the Anglo-American Tradition

Chris Madsen

in Military History

ISBN: 9780199791279
Published online February 2012 | | DOI:
Military Justice, the Anglo-American Tradition

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Armed forces rely upon good discipline and willing obedience to orders from service members to meet operational requirements and run the organization within a hierarchical structure of ranks and responsibilities. The system of rules and regulations that soldiers must follow is different from normal civilian life. To enforce expected behavior, most militaries maintain their own internal disciplinary codes for the administration of military justice; that is, justice peculiar to the armed forces and its members. The military is accorded certain authority and powers to try and to punish offending individuals. The most frequent means is summarily, by immediate superiors in a quasijudicial fashion, for service offenses less serious in nature; more formally, courts-martial composed of military judges, and, when necessary, panels of military members convene for civilian criminal and more serious military-related service offenses. Both forms are rooted in historical traditions and norms in respective armed forces, tempered by parallel developments in civilian jurisprudence, in which military justice generally lags. Today, decisions from courts-martial may be subject to appeal to higher courts on the basis of legality of finding and appropriateness of sentence, and in some countries harsher penalties, such as death, are rarely handed out or are expressly disallowed in the scale of punishments. It was not always so. Military justice, particularly in the field, closer to battle, could often be swift and arbitrary and have dear consequences for those individuals deemed to have contravened military authority and regulations. Military trials are part theater, to demonstrate military authority, and part enforcement of discipline and good behavior, for the sake of larger units and bodies of troops in a military context. Military justice encourages all members of armed forces to act in a predictable manner, in accordance with known rules, during the conduct of military operations and extends as well to those on the opposing side who might transgress accepted conventions and codes of conduct recognized by a group of nations engaged in armed conflict. War crimes, therefore, come under the purview of military justice when national military courts are involved. Military justice is still evolving as a serious field of legal jurisprudence in terms of legitimacy, mechanics of form, balancing of the unique needs and function of the armed forces in relation to society, and fairness to the individual, who, in most Western militaries at least, is a volunteer and chooses to serve the country.

Article.  11606 words. 

Subjects: Military History ; Pre-20th Century Warfare ; First World War ; Second World War ; Post-WW2 Military History

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