Monday, August 3, 2015

Coast Guard Day 1790-2015

Tomorrow, August 4, is Coast Guard Day. The service was founded -- as the "system of cutters" -- under Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton 225 years ago.

Military jurisdiction over civilians in Kenya?

Questions are being raised about a cryptic report on the pending Kenya Defence Forces Bill. This Daily Nation article suggests that there is concern that one provision in the measure would permit the exercise of military jurisdiction over civilians accused of terrorism. Excerpt:
A report of the Kenya National Assembly Directorate of Legal Service seen by the Nation is at a loss as to what the drafters of the Bill seek to achieve by amending section 112 of the KDF Act 2012 which deals with court martials.

"Clause 18 of the Bill seeks to amend section 112 of the Act to insert the punitive provision which was lacking. 
"Does the new punishment seek to invoke the jurisdiction of a court martial for civilian suspects?" wonders the report. 
In Kenya, court martials are reserved for military personnel while the rest of Kenyans are tried in civilian courts.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Washington Post report on Sen. Graham's military career

The Washington Post's Craig Whitlock has written this lengthy and devastating article on the military career of Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee who is an announced candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. Excerpt:
Graham is running as a ­national-security hawk, calling himself a “battle-tested leader” with “a lifetime of military service.” Images of him wearing camouflage in the field are a common thread in his campaign. 
But a detailed examination of Graham’s military record — much of it obtained under the Freedom of Information Act — shows that the Air Force afforded him special treatment as a lawmaker, granting him the privileges of rank with few expectations in return.
During his first decade in Congress, the Air Force promoted Graham twice even though documents in his military personnel file reveal that he did little or no work. Later, the Pentagon gave the military lawyer a job assignment in the Air Force Reserve that he highlighted in his biography for several years but never performed.
The article refers to a case in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces held that Sen. Graham could not serve simultaneously in the Senate and as a judge of the U.S. Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals under the Incompatibility Clause of the Constitution. The case is United States v. Lane, 61 M.J. 1 (C.A.A.F. 2006).

Femi Falana on the Nigerian court-martial situation

Femi Falana, SAN
The Nigerian government's review of past and pending courts-martial is stirring up a mare's nest of issues. From this article posted today on the Premium Times:
Mr. [Femi] Falana, who is the attorney to some of the condemned and imprisoned soldiers, in a statement on Sunday, said the comment by Mr. [Alex] Badeh, now retired, has vindicated the soldiers. He said the ongoing courts-martial should be discontinued forthwith and the soldiers on trial discharged. 
“In the light of the foregoing, we call on the military authorities to disband the two courts-martial currently sitting in Lagos and Abuja and discharge the officers and soldiers on trial. Since those who set up the military courts have admitted that they led a military which was neither equipped nor motivated to confront the well equipped enemy there is no longer any legal or moral basis for the trials,” he said. 
Mr. Falana argued that the courts-martial were red herring by the military to divert attention from the inadequacies of the military. He said the military clearly confirmed the soldiers complaint by removal of the General Officer Commanding the 7th Infantry Division of the Nigerian Army based in Maiduguri, Borno State at the time. 
He said the refusal of the immediate past Chief of Army Staff, Kenneth Minimah, to confirm the verdict of the courts-martial, which would have paved the way for it to be appealed at the Court of Appeal, was a violation of the constitution and the Armed Forces Act. 
“In view of the injustice which characterised the exercise we had pleaded with the authorities to review the exercise and pointed out that the decision to dismiss 1000 young men who had been trained to handle weapons was a threat to national security. 
“Our appeal fell on deaf ears. As the action could not be justified under the Armed Forces Act we have had to approach the National Industrial Court for redress on behalf of hundreds of dismissed soldiers. The cases are pending in the court.” 
Prosecute Badeh for Mutiny 
Mr Falana said in the light of his comment, the ex-defence chief, should be charged with mutiny for deceiving his troops and the nation as well as for demobilising troops under the false claim that the Federal Government had reached a truce with Boko Haram.

Whither the Nigerian capital cases?

Nigerian courts-martial have handed down a number of death sentences in recent months. The latest development, recounted here, is the initiation of contempt proceedings by counsel for the condemned men based on the government's failure to make records of trial available to facilitate review. According to the news report:
Counsel to the soldiers, Chief Godwin Obla (SAN) [Senior Advocate of Nigeria], told Leadership Sunday that since the soldiers were sentenced to death by a military court martial, the military had not been cooperating in efforts to get relevant documents to challenge the judgment that sentenced them to death.
He said contempt proceeding had been initiated at the court to make sure the military complies with the order of the court that asked them to make available the record of proceedings at the military court martial.

Obla said, "We've filed a motion for contempt since they refused to comply with court order. We applied for the release of the record of proceedings at the special court that sentenced them to death but they have not complied. We will give them the benefit of the doubt that they will comply now that there is a new leadership in place in the military."
Nigeria has a new Chief of Defence Staff. The transition to new leadership has not been without controversy:
In a related development, prominent lawyers in the country have condemned [Alex] Badeh over his statement that Nigerian military is ill-equipped. 
Badeh made the statement last week during his passing out parade from the military. 
The lawyers, while reacting in separate telephone interviews, averred that Badeh should have resigned when he knew that the military he headed was ill-equipped. 
Commenting on the import of the former defence chief's comment on the case of soldiers on death row, who had protested lack of adequate arms to confront Boko Haram insurgents and were court martialled and sentenced by the military, a senior advocate of Nigeria, Mallam Yusuf Ali, said there was no justification for the actions of the condemned soldiers who absconded from the war front, adding that Badeh should have resigned instead of making such statement during his passing out parade. 
"There can be no justification for cowardice. You have to take the risk involved since you have sworn to defend the country. I agree that they should be granted some reprieve but I disagree with what Badeh said. What he said is not an excuse for cowardice. Why did he retain the job when he knew that they were ill-equipped? Hunger is not an excuse for stealing," he emphasised.