Convening authority

The term convening authority is used in United States military law to refer to an individual whose job includes appointing officers to play a role in a court-martial, or similar military tribunal or military commission.[1] The appointees serve as the military judge and members of the "panel", which decides the guilt or innocence of a person standing trial before the court-martial or military commission. When an enlisted member is on trial, he or she may demand that enlisted members be included on the panel. The court-martial, tribunal, or Military Commission then reports back to the convening authority their recommended verdict.[2] Unlike a civilian trial, the convening authority's "command prerogative" entitles them to amend or overturn the sentence of a court-martial. The convening authority may not set aside a finding of not guilty or increase the severity of a recommended punishment.

Guantanamo Military Commissions

The individual in over-all charge of the Guantanamo military commissions is also called the convening authority. The first three incumbents were civilian officials, although the first and third incumbents, John D. Altenburg and Bruce MacDonald, were retired military flag officers.[3][4] Susan J. Crawford, the second convening authority, had been a long-term senior civilian lawyer for the Department of Defense, eventually serving as the Inspector General.[5]


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