Military Courts-Martial: An Overview


Publication Date: May 2004

Publisher: Library of Congress. Congressional Research Service


Research Area: Law and ethics



The recent reports of abuse of prisoners held by the military in Iraq have raised questions about how the armed forces discipline and punish those who commit crimes or violate the rules and regulations of the military. Congress, under the authorities vested in it, enacted a code of military laws, the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The President, by Executive Order, has, in turn, established standards and procedures for prosecuting violators of the UCMJ and certain other laws. Military criminal courts are known as courts-martial. This report provides an overview of military courts-martial: who can be tried, potential punishments, and the appeals process.