|Military commissions are administered by the Department of Defense, through five organizations:
- The Office of the Convening Authority
- The Office of the Chief Prosecutor
- The Military Commissions Defense Organization
- The Military Commissions Trial Judiciary
- The United States Court of Military Commission Review
The five organizations have separate functions and responsibilities for achieving the overarching goal of a just resolution to all cases referred to a military commission. The organizations are comprised of members from of every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, as well as civilian employees of the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice.
The Office of the Convening Authority is responsible for the overall management of the military commissions process, including logistics and personnel support. The Convening Authority is empowered to convene military commissions, refer charges to trial, negotiate pre-trial agreements, and review records of trial. The Convening Authority also provides an accused an opportunity for clemency before taking action on the findings and sentence of all military commission cases.
The Office of the Chief Prosecutor includes attorneys, paralegals and support staff from each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces and the Department of Defense, and attorneys from the Department of Justice. Counsel assigned to the Office of the Chief Prosecutor coordinate investigative efforts, prepare charges, and represent the United States before military commissions.
The Military Commissions Defense Organization maintains a separate command structure to help ensure fairness and independence of the legal system. Defense counsel for the accused include military attorneys and civilian attorneys employed by the Department of Defense, and/or civilian defense counsel retained by the accused at his own expense, who are appointed by the Chief Defense Counsel to represent the accused. An accused may ask to be represented by a specific military counsel. In capital cases, an accused will also be appointed a “learned” counsel with specialized training and experience in capital litigation. These “learned counsel” may be military attorneys or civilian defense counsel, whose fees and expenses are paid for by the Department of Defense. Defense counsel are responsible for providing a zealous defense for each accused tried by a military commission.
The Military Commissions Trial Judiciary consists of military judges nominated by The Judge Advocates General from the military departments and the judges’ support staff. The judges are military attorneys on active duty and must be a member in good standing with their bar, and be certified to practice in Federal Court or the highest State Court in their jurisdiction. They are experienced trial judges who have presided over courts-martial. Military judges preside over each military commission.
The U.S. Court of Military Commission Review is an appellate court composed of one or more panels, including at least three appellate judges, who sit in panels or as a whole, to review each military commission case submitted to the Court of Military Commission Review. The Court of Military Commission Review reviews the findings and sentence of each military commission case for legal and factual sufficiency, unless the accused waives the right to appeal.