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Global Seminar on Military Justice Reform

Yale Law School
October 18-19, 2013

Welcome to the website for Yale Law School’s 2013 Global Seminar on Military Justice Reform. The Seminar is made possible by the generosity of the Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund at Yale Law School and in cooperation with the International Society for Military Law and the Law of War and the National Institute of Military Justice.

Military justice is facing dramatic challenges. First, there are topical national controversies such as, in the United States, those arising from the treatment of sexual assault and battlefield crime. Second, there are rising expectations in a variety of countries for due process and the rule of law in the administration of justice by military courts. Noteworthy current developments include:

  • Public and congressional concern over the handling of sexual assault cases under the Uniform Code of Military Justice
  • Law reform opportunities presented by the Wilkerson case, in which a senior American commander, acting as “convening authority,” overturned a general court-martial jury verdict before the case could reach the appellate process
  • The recent WikiLeaks-related prosecution of Private Manning, highlighting the restrictions on public access to pleadings and court orders
  • Limitations on public information about high-profile courts-martial in the United Kingdom
  • Canadian and Colombian military justice reforms enacted this year
  • Decisions of the Plurinational Constitutional Court of Bolivia and the Supreme Court of Mexico on the scope of military jurisdiction and the allocation of subject matter jurisdiction between military and civilian courts
  • Questions surrounding the structural independence of the Armed Forces Tribunal in India
  • The use of military justice to stifle civilian dissent in a variety of countries

Because national military justice systems often face comparable issues, valuable insight into the root causes, trajectory and tempo of law reform may be gained by discussion across national lines. Are reforms needed in Country X or Country Y? If so, what should they consist of? What are the best strategies – legislative, litigative, “the court of public opinion” – for achieving reform? These questions will be at the heart of the Seminar. The Seminar will not be a series of formal speeches, but rather informed discussion by experts who have been personally involved in the reform process.

Participants will be from a variety of legal systems. The Seminar will be open to the public and we expect that members of the Yale Law School community will attend. Members of the media may also attend, although our ground rules will be that participants may speak off the record or not for attribution if they wish. This website provides access to readings that have been suggested by Seminar participants. We will welcome additional readings. These may be sent to Renee DeMatteo, our Events Coordinator, at events.law@yale.edu.

Proceedings will be in English. The Seminar is not intended to reach any conclusions or to frame recommendations. We will, however, prepare a brief report for participants and others with an interest.


The Seminar will be held in Sterling Law Building room 120, except as otherwise indicated.

Friday, October 18

7:00 Welcoming Dinner
Union League Café, 1032 Chapel Street, New Haven

Saturday, October 19

8:00 Continental Breakfast

8:30-8:45 Welcoming Remarks
Eugene R. Fidell, Yale Law School
Professor Elizabeth Lutes Hillman, President,
National Institute of Military Justice and Professor of Law and Provost & Academic Dean, UC Hastings
Brigadier General (ret) Jan Peter Spijk, President,
International Society for Military Law and the Law of War

Session 1
8:45 - 10:15 Introduction of Participants and Country Reports

His Honour Judge Jeff Blackett, Judge Advocate General of H.M. Forces
Professor Hillman
Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Strickey, Office of the Judge Advocate General, Canadian Forces
and others

10:15 – 10:30 Break

Session 2
10:30 – 12:00 Structural Issues I: The Role of the Commander in Military Justice
Moderator: Bruce Houlder, QC, Director of Service Prosecutions

12:00 – 1:00 Luncheon Remarks: The Work of the Office of the High Commissioner for
Human Rights on Human Rights and Military Justice
Robert Husbands, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Alumni Reading Room

Session 3
1:00 – 2:15 Structural Issues II: Appellate Review
The Honorable Gilles Létourneau, Federal Court of Appeal of Canada (ret)
Major (ret) Navdeep Singh

2:15 – 2:30 Break

Session 4
2:30 – 3:30 Transparency in the Administration of Military Justice
Shayana Kadidal, Esq., Center for Constitutional Rights
General Spijk 

Session 5
3:30 – 4:45 Summary Trials
Colonel (ret) Michel Drapeau
Colonel (ret) Dwight H. Sullivan, USMCR

Session 6
4:45 – 6:00 Reform Strategies
Mr. Fidell

6:00 Concluding Remarks
Mr. Fidell
Professor Hillman
General Spijk

7:00 Concluding Dinner

Saray Turkish Restaurant, 770 Campbell Avenue, West Haven

Please note: Titles listed above are for informational purposes only and speakers are not speaking in an official capacity