What is a tribunal?
Here is a definition from http://www.answers.com/tribunal&r=67:
1. A seat or court of justice.
2. The bench on which a judge or other presiding officer sits in court.
3. A committee or board appointed to adjudicate in a particular matter.
4. Something that has the power to determine or judge: the tribunal of public opinion.
Sometimes a jury trial, especially a famous trial like the O. J. Simpson fiasco, is called a tribunal. That is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about a military tribunal such as the one that judged the Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg.
Military tribunals are not designed to be fair, although, depending on the participants, they may be more effective and based on more facts than a jury trial. They are used under special conditions such as the Lincoln assassination. President Bush initiated them to judge terrorist.
The normal protections of a jury system are not part of a military tribunal. Here are some of the conditions that I think tribunals (and I haven’t checked with my lawyer son) are used instead of the regular court system:
There is a Uniform Code of Military Justice to be followed in such tribunals. From my experience, military trials are conducted by officers who have good knowledge of what occurred. They are tough but usually fair from my experience in the military. (The GI prosecuted seldom thinks the trial was fair.)
Emergency and Urgent Situations
Such as was the case with the Lincoln assassination. The government wanted to round up all the conspirators to stop further acts of terrorism. The public wanted the perpetrators punished.
Situations Where Evidence May be Sparse:
Such as with our current situation with terrorist.
For example, a group of terrorist was gathered up in Afghanistan by the military. They were probably held because of their associations together, real or imagined.
To gather evidence against each one of these characters would be very difficult.
There would not be evidence to convict them of a particular terrorist act.
That is the key, isn’t it?
A military tribunal can decide which participants were part of a particular undesirable group and mete out punishment accordingly, something perhaps that could never be achieved in a jury trial. Guilt by association is not condoned by most folks I know.
History continues to look back on tribunals. The doctor that treated John Wilkes Booth after the Lincoln association is one held by historians to be a person who was judged too harshly. The doctor evidently knew nothing of the assassination when he treated the murderer, Booth.
I think a tribunal formed in haste, which is not given the time required to gather evidence and make good judgments, is a big danger to those being prosecuted.
Let’s be glad that the current administration has not been hasty about putting judgment on those gathered up as terrorist. Through due process some of the “terrorist” have been released. Others must wait their fate.
Well, maybe that is fair.
I believe the Supreme Court said the current process is suitable for the current situation.
Tribunal. Lincoln, Bush, Afghanistan, Nuremberg, Military, Uniform Code of Military Justice, O. J. Simpson, Supreme Court