e11th hour...seeking solutionsabout usemail informationquestions? comments?submit an article for publicationregister for our free newslettersite map
disaster responseforeign policymediaregional securityresource directoryarchived articles
search for

recommended sites

"That is not the way the American system works. This is a nation built
around the rule of law, not faith in the goodness of particular officials."
The New York Times Editorial Board, Dec. 1, 2001.

"The other argument is the Geneva Convention doesn't apply in the case of
terrorism, and that leads you down a different track from a legal standpoint...
We need that information. We need to be able to interrogate them and extract
from them whatever information they have."
Vice President Dick Cheney, The New York Times, Jan. 27, 2001

main directory


IN AMERICA'S ongoing war against terrorism, President George W. Bush has indicated the use of secret military tribunals to arrest, try and sentence non-U.S. citizens who are suspected of committing terrorists acts against the United States may be considered.

Military tribunals have a long history in the United States: Some legal scholars say the first tribunal was held in the United States in 1780. Others, however, cite the first official proceeding military tribunal in the U.S. was in 1847 during the U.S.-Mexican War.

The international community followed suit almost a century later after World War II. Four major countries established the International Military Tribunal to try former Nazi leaders who were indicted and tried as war criminals. The Nuremberg trials set a precedent for future war crimes tribunals.

A historical look at key tribunals held around the world:
. . . . . . . . . .

British secret agent John André is convicted of charges for collaborating with Benedict Arnold during the U.S. War of Independence. A board of officers designated by General George Washington found him guilty of spying and condemned him to death. Andre was later hanged.

Some legal historians suggest that the first documented U.S. military tribunal took place during the Mexican War. General Winfield Scott ordered punishment for violations of the law of war committed by United States forces in Mexico.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt conducts military tribunals to try German marines who sneaked ashore in New York and Florida. The Germans were planning to sabotage military facilities. On the day of their convictions, six of the eight defendants were executed.

Following World War II, an international military tribunal in Nuremberg indicted 24 former Nazi leaders. The tribunal, which stemmed from the London Agreement of August 8, was adopted by the United States, Great Britain, the Soviet Union and France. It tried Individuals who committed war crimes against humanity with no particular geographic location.
For more information: The Nuremberg War Crimes Trials
(The Avalon Project, Yale Law School)

In addition, the United Nations organized the International Court of Justice, which replaced the Permanent Court of International Justice. It is known as the highest judicial agency in the United Nations, providing a peaceful means to settle international legal disputes. Many of the cases are between governments and are settled in international and national tribunals according to international law.
For more information: International Court of Justice

The international tribunals for the Far East in Tokyo for Japanese war crimes stemming from World War II were conducted from 1946 to 1948. Twenty-five defendants were brought to trial. Japan's prime minister from 1941-44, General Hideki Tojo, was hanged as a war criminal. Of the 25 Japanese defendants, seven were sentenced to hang,16 to life imprisonment and two to lesser terms.
For more information: International Military Tribunal for the Far East
(The Avalon Project, Yale Law School)

The United Nations' Security Council establishes the International Crimes Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia to convict individuals who have violated international humanitarian law. One of the key defendants indicted in the Hague tribunal is then-Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. He and his associates are charged with genocide during the 1992-95 war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and crimes against humanity in Croatia for 1991-92. The Hague tribunal is still proceeding.
For ongoing information: International Crimes Tribunal for
the Former Yugoslavia (United Nations)

A tribunal for the 1994 genocide of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda is created by the United Nations Security Council. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda indicted 35 people suspected of mass killings. The first conviction was of a Rwandan mayor named Jean-Paul Akayesu. So far, eight people have been convicted and one suspect has been acquitted. The Rwanda tribunal is still proceeding.
For ongoing information: International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (United Nations)

The International Criminal Court, the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal, is formed. On March 11, 2003, its first 18 judges—eleven men and seven women from Samoa, Latvia, South Africa, Brazil, Britain and France, representing all regions of the world and its various cultures— are sworn in to try the 21st century's worst crimes in a move hailed as the biggest legal milestone since Hitler's henchmen were tried at Nuremberg. The court will try people accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Some 89 countries stand in support of the ICC, a descendant of Nuremberg and Tokyo war crimes trials after World War II. However, the United States, China and Russia—three of the five permanent members of the 15-seat UN Security Council—shun the court, with Washington leading a dogged campaign to ensure it does not try to prosecute US citizens.
For ongoing information: International Criminal Court (United Nations)
International Law (United Nations)
. . . . . . . . . .
Timeline Sources: CNN, World Book, Encyclopedia Britannica, United Nations

Complete Text of U.S. Presidential Military Order

Additional reading:
"Don't Panic" (article by Bruce Ackerman, Sterling Professor of Law & Political Science,
Yale University and the author of We the People)
The American Legal System: The Administration of Justice in the United States by
Judicial, Administrative, Military and Arbitral Tribunals
; Lewis Mayers, 1981

Military Tribunals; Louis Fisher, 2002
Secret Trials and Executions: Military Tribunals and the Threat to Democracy;
Barbara Olshansky, Greg Ruggiero, 2002

U.S. Names Lawyers for Military Terrorism Tribunals; Reuters

privacy policy | editorial policy | disclaimer | terms & conditions
copyright © 2002 e11th-hour.org. All rights reserved.
questions? webmaster | design & development: creative license, ltd