Faculty Journal Articles and Book Chapters


This chapter examines the US practice of not charging its service members with war crimes. The chapter briefly explains how the United States asserts criminal jurisdiction over its service members before turning to how the US military reports violations of the laws of war. It then sets out the US methodology for charging such violations as applied to its service members, and compares this methodology to that applied to those tried by military commissions. The chapter then discusses the varied meanings of the term ‘war crimes’ and the way in which the 1949 Geneva Conventions can provide a benchmark against which the elements of offences, and their punishments, can be compared. While the US practice fares adequately in this comparison, the argument for a pragmatic approach to charging over the expressive value of a war crime charge is rendered untenable as a result of the disparate manner in which the United States charges detainees when compared to its own service members.

Publication Title


Document Type

Book Chapter


Military Justice, US, Bales, Afghanistan, Manual for Courts-Martial, Rome Statute, Guantanamo, Military Commissions, Al Qaeda, Taliban, Enemy, War Crime



Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



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