Editorial: Tribunals favor those in charge

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You can submit on the site.
Send letters to:
315 Student Activities Center, 1755 N. 13th St., Philadelphia, PA 19122.
fax: 215.204.1119.

All submissions must include your major and year at Temple and a phone number or email address where you can be reached.

Flip through a thesaurus and look up tribunal. You’ll be directed to listings such as “court,” “bar” and even “inquisition.” As if tribunal needed a reputation worse than it already has.

But, tribunals have that reputation because they’ve earned it.

Starting as far back as the Inquisition and then the fraudulent Nuremburg trials, they now have the front page on the religious and military front, though the U.S. military has chosen the word “commission” for PR sake.

Maybe the U.S. military will clean up the reputation of the tribunal, but that’s doubtful, especially with how they plan on handling it. In a recent CNN.com article, a Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee said, “When you have a military tribunal, there are very few people who don’t get convicted in them just as a matter of course.”

The Pentagon recently changed some rules, mostly to ensure the military can convict all those it wants. For starters, hearsay and second-hand evidence will be allowed in the courtroom. At first, this sounds like it might be good for the defendant, but then one wonders if the military might not have all it needs. What better way to cure this problem then loosening the rules?

Before trouncing these tribunals completely, it must be said they are better off then before. For starters, Bush won’t have the “final decision” he had originally set and the death penalty requires a unanimous vote, which probably won’t be hard to garner because the tribunal will consist solely of Americans and the overly fervent spirit of late doesn’t do much justice. Also, if convicted, there is no real appeals process, just a review panel.

This time around, the trials will be made public — for the most part. Journalists will be forced out whenever classified information is discussed, though that title could refer to a lot that really may not be.

Also, a “not guilty” charge can not be overturned, a safe guard from the President who has already taken to calling the prisoners “killers”, which completely shoots down the “presumed innocence” clause that both the tribunal and American justice system require.

Enough loopholes exist to keep the charades of the Nuremburg trial alive, just less blatantly orchestrated.

If this discussion were a spectrum, there would be the military on the overzealous end and the Catholic Church on the apathetic end.

“Sexual misconduct,” as the Church refers to molestation, has existed privately for a long time and has recently taken to the front pages. And how does the Church respond, dishing out a lot of money, close to $1 billion in recent years, according the National Catholic Reporter.

Aside from settling outside of court, the Church has set up guidelines for tribunals to hear cases of sexual abuse against those of the cloth. Unlike the military, the Church has decided to keep them secret and composed only of priests.

Now let’s get this straight. Some of the guilty will be trying the guilty? There is also no mandate for the Church to inform their congregations or even the local authorities of the results of these tribunals.

The documents that created the new tribunal guidelines also call for a statute of limitations, essentially cutting off some of the accused from being tried. Cases can only be tried when the victims are 28 years old or younger. That comes from a clause limiting the time frame to 10 years from the victim’s 18th birthday.

Other than this, the Church has set forth no guidelines for conviction or even presentation of evidence.

There goes the good spin the U.S. government tried putting on tribunals.

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