History Rhymes

A Comparative Analysis of the United States' Use of Military Commissions and the United Kingdom's Use of Diplock Courts

The use of noncivilian courts has received much criticism both in the United States and the United Kingdom for their abdication of rights and processes defendants are typically afforded in civilian courts. Since the Revolutionary War, military commissions have been utilized in the United States in various forms to meet the specific needs of the past and current administrations. While controversies over the precedential value of previous military commissions persist, the United States has continued to rely on them in convening military commissions to try Guantanamo detainees. The United Kingdom, on the other hand, has utilized Diplock Courts to try members of the Irish Republican Army and its various offshoots since 1973. In contrast to United States military commissions, Diplock Courts have been reformed and less utilized over the past decade. The result has been an increase in the institutional credibility of Diplock Courts. This Note proposes that the United States look to the example set forth by the United Kingdom in shaping and reforming its military commissions. In support of this proposition, this Note compares the two noncivilian court systems in terms of their effectiveness in developing trial procedures and rules, as well as in anticipating social, cultural, and political consequences that follow. Through an analysis of landmark Supreme Court cases, the author examines the structure, process, and utilization of previous and current military commissions. In light of the reformations taken by the United Kingdom, the author then suggests steps to be taken by the United States in reforming its military commissions. The suggested approach will have a beneficial effect for all parties by increasing institutional credibility of military commissions among the international legal community.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.