Military courts in the United States

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On November 13, 2001, President Bush issued a military order pertaining to the « Detention, Treatment, and Trial of Certain Non-Citizens in the War Against Terrorism » (66 FR 57, 833). This order authorises the use of military tribunals for the trial of persons who are suspected of participating in terrorist actions, or of lending assistance to such actions. The order aroused a strong outcry in the press, and a quite divisive controversy in the country, reflecting the general and perennial tension between considerations of security, especially in times of crisis, and the need to preserve civil liberties and human rights, as the basis of the American form of Government. The present essay analyses the reactions that this order generated ; it considers its far-reaching implications, as well as the many legal precedents invoked by all parties on both sides of the issue. It attempts to situate the current tension within the legal context of increased emphasis on security consideration in times of crisis. This summons the reference to the oft-quoted maxim inter arma silent lege. –Summary AFRI-2003