Wednesday, September 12, 2007

US Military Tribunals in Foreign Countries--Why?

This answer will surprise you. It comes from Felix Frankfurter, in a decision regarding the use of military tribunals. (The full explanation is at the link.)


The practice of European governments to send officers to reside in foreign countries, authorized to exercise a limited jurisdiction over vessels and seamen of their country, to watch the interests of their countrymen and to assist in adjusting their disputes and protecting their commerce, goes back to a very early period, even preceding what are termed the Middle Ages.

* * * In other than Christian countries they were, by treaty stipulations, usually clothed with authority to hear complaints against their countrymen and to sit in judgment upon them when charged with public offenses. After the rise of Islamism, and the spread of its followers over eastern Asia and other countries bordering on the Mediterranean, the exercise of this judicial authority became a matter of great concern. The intense hos[tility] of the people of Moslem faith to all other sects, and particularly to Christians, affected all their intercourse, and all proceedings had in their tribunals. Even the rules of evidence adopted by them placed those of different faith on unequal grounds in any controversy with them.

For this cause, and by reason of the barbarous and cruel punishments inflicted in those countries, and the frequent use of torture to enforce confession from parties accused, it was a matter of deep interest to Christian governments to withdraw the trial of their subjects, when charged with the commission of a public offense, from the arbitrary and despotic action of the local officials. Treaties conferring such jurisdiction upon these consuls were essential to the peaceful residence of Christians within those countries and the successful prosecution of commerce with their people.

Of course, that doesn't prevent Saudi Arabia, for example, from openly continuing its anti-Christian (and anti-Jewish) practices.

HT: Counter-Terrorism Blog

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