Leadership: Military Law For Battlefield Civilians

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February2, 2007: The growing American use of civilians in combat zones has led, with little fanfare, to those civilians being placed under military law, when working in a combat zone. The UCMJ (Uniform Code of Military Justice) is a separate legal system used for military personnel in war, and peace. The UCMJ uses courts martial to try defendants, and can impose the usual array of punishments (fines, confinement, or even the death penalty). Most UCMJ cases are identical to those encountered in civilian cases (theft, assault, murder, rape, etc), and usually result in similar punishments. Although the defendants have defense attorneys, they don't have trial by jury. Instead, their fate is decided by a panel of officers and, in some cases, senior NCOs. It's unclear if the new law, allowing the use of the UCMJ for civilians, applies to all civilians working in the combat zone (like journalists and foreigners.)

 


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