Skip to main content


These definitions are provided to facilitate understanding of information in this website. They are not intended to take the place of law or regulation. Unless otherwise stated, they apply to military commissions only.


Accused   An individual who is facing charges, either sworn or referred, before a military commission or a court-martial, called “the defendant” in civilian courts in the U.S.

Admission  A self-incriminating statement falling short of an acknowledgment of guilt, even if it was intended by its maker to be exculpatory.

Alien  An individual who is not a citizen of the United States.

Alien Unprivileged Enemy Belligerent   An individual who is not a citizen of the United States, who is not a privileged belligerent, who (a) has engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners; (b) has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners; or (c) was a part of al Qaeda at the time of the alleged offense under the M.C.A. of 2009.

Appellate military judge  A judge on a military court of appeals; must be a commissioned officer of the armed forces, serving on active duty, who is a member of the bar of a Federal court or a member of the bar of the highest court of a State or the District of Columbia.

Armed Forces   The four uniformed armed forces of the United States, including the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Air Force. 10 U.S.C. § 101.

Article   Refers to articles of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (Title 10 U.S.C., Chapter 47) unless the context indicates otherwise.

Article III courts  Also referred to as “federal courts,” these include the U.S. Supreme Court, which is expressly created in Article III of the U.S. Constitution, as well as U.S. district courts and U.S. courts of appeal, which are created by Congress in accordance with Article III of the U.S. Constitution.

Attorney   A lawyer.


No entries


Capital case   A military commission to which a capital offense has been referred with an instruction that the case be treated as capital, and, in the case of a rehearing or new or other trial, for which offense death remains an authorized punishment under R.M.C. 810(d).

Capital offense   An offense for which death is an authorized punishment under chapter 47A of title 10, United States Code, or the law of war.

Citizen of the United States  A person may become a citizen of the United States only by birth within the territory of the United States, by birth to parents who are United States citizens, or by naturalization. See 8 U.S.C. §§ 1401, 1427.

Classified information   (a) Any information or material that has been determined by the U.S. Government pursuant to statute, Executive order, or regulation to require protection against unauthorized disclosure for reasons of national security; or (b) Any restricted data, as that term is defined in section 11y of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (42 U.S.C. § 2014(y)).

Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA)   The federal law that provides procedures for the use of classified information in legal proceedings in Article III courts.

Client  A person, public officer, corporation, association, organization or other entity, either public or private, who receives professional legal services from a lawyer, or who consults a lawyer with a view to obtaining professional legal services from the lawyer.

Coalition partner  With respect to hostilities engaged in by the United States, “coalition partner” means any State or armed force directly engaged along with the United States in such hostilities or providing direct operational support to the United States in connection with such hostilities.

Code   Refers to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), unless the context indicates otherwise.

Confession   An acknowledgment of guilt.

Confidential communication  Communication not intended to be disclosed to third persons other than those to whom disclosure is in furtherance of the rendition of professional legal services to the client or those reasonably necessary for the transmission of the communication.

Convening Authority   The Secretary of Defense or any officer or official of the United States designated by the Secretary of Defense for the purpose of convening military commissions and referring charges to commissions for trial.

Conviction  The judgment by a military commission, court-martial or federal court that a person is guilty of a crime.

Cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment   The cruel, unusual, and inhumane treatment or punishment prohibited by the Fifth, Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, as defined in the United States Reservations, Declarations and Understandings to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment done at New York, December 10, 1984, without geographical limitation.


Declarant  A person who has made a statement.

Detail To order a person to perform a specific temporary duty, unless the context indicates otherwise, such as to serve as a defense counsel, a prosecutor, a military judge or as a panel member for a military commission.

Detainee  An individual held in the custody of the United States under the laws of war.


Exculpatory information   For purposes of military commissions, evidence that reasonably tends to negate the guilt of the accused of an offense charged, reduce the degree of guilt of the accused with respect to an offense charged, impeach the credibility of a witness whom the government intends to call at trial and, upon a finding of guilt, information that reasonably may be viewed as mitigation evidence at sentencing. 10 U.S.C. 949j(b).


No entries


Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War  The Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, done at Geneva, August 12, 1949 (6 UST 3316).

Geneva Conventions  The international conventions signed at Geneva on August 12, 1949, which apply to various aspects of the conduct of hostilities.

GTMO  Acronym for Guantanamo.


Habeas Corpus  An order (called a “writ”) issued by a court to a public officer to produce a person before the court; a habeas corpus petition may be filed by an individual with the appropriate court to challenge the lawfulness of his detention.

Hearsay  A statement made by a person, called the “declarant,” other than the one the person made while testifying at the trial or hearing, offered in evidence to prove the truth of the matter asserted.

Hostilities  Any conflict subject to the laws of war.


In camera proceeding   A closed and private session authorized under the Rules for Military Commissions so that a military judge may review classified information or other sensitive evidentiary matters without risking the release of protected information or biasing the members.


Judge advocate   A military lawyer; a commissioned officer of one of the U.S. Armed Forces who must be a lawyer, licensed to practice law in the United States and admitted to the bar of a Federal court or the highest court of a State or the District of Columbia.

Judge Advocate General  The title of the senior judge advocates in the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Coast Guard. The senior judge advocate in the U.S. Marine Corps is the Staff Judge Advocate to the Commandant.

JTF  Joint Task Force.


No entries


Lawyer  A person authorized to practice law.

Legal Advisor  An official appointed by authority of the Secretary of Defense who fulfills the responsibilities of that position, as delineated in the Manual for Military Commissions, and otherwise provides legal advice and recommendations to the convening authority, similar in nature to that provided by a staff judge advocate under the UCMJ. A legal advisor may be military or civilian and may include a judge advocate.


Material support or resources  Any property, tangible or intangible, or service, including currency or monetary instruments or financial securities, financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safe houses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel (one or more individuals who may be or include oneself), and transportation, except medicine or religious materials.

M.C.A.   The Military Commission Act of 2009, which provides the authority to establish military commissions under chapter 47A of title 10, United States Code, unless otherwise noted.

M.C.M.  The Manual for Courts-Martial.

M.M.C.   The Manual for Military Commissions, which contains rules of procedure and evidence.

Members   Active duty commissioned officers who collectively determine whether an accused is guilty of any or all of the charges and then determine a sentence; akin to civilian jury members.

Military commission   Includes, depending on the context: (a) The military judge and members of a military commission; or (b) The military judge when a session of a military commission is conducted without members under Rule for Military Commissions 803.

Mil. Comm. R. Evid.  The Military Commission Rules of Evidence.

Military Commission Rules of Evidence  The rules established by the Secretary of Defense for the admission and treatment of evidence during trials by military commission as published in the Manual for Military Commissions.

Military objectives  Those objects which, under the laws of war and the Military Commissions Act, may be lawfully targeted for attack. They include (a) combatants; and (b) those objects during hostilities (i) which, by their nature, location, purpose, or use, effectively contribute to the opposing force’s war-fighting or war-sustaining capability; and (ii) the total or partial destruction, capture, or neutralization of which would constitute a definite military advantage to the attacker under the circumstances at the time of the attack.

Military judge   The presiding officer of a military commission, who must be a military attorney (or “judge advocate”) certified to serve as a military judge and must have previously served as a military judge.

Motion   An application to the military judge for particular relief, such as suppression of evidence. Motions may be oral or, at the discretion of the military judge, written.


National Security   The national defense and foreign relations of the United States.


Oath  A solemn undertaking; an affirmation is the same as an oath, except in an affirmation the words “so help you God” are omitted.


Party  In the context of parties to a military commission, means: (a) The accused and any defense or associate or assistant defense counsel and agents of the defense counsel when acting on behalf of the accused with respect to the military commission in question; and (b) Any trial or assistant trial counsel representing the United States, and agents of the trial counsel when acting on behalf of the trial counsel with respect to the military commission in question.

Preferred  A term of art under the UCMJ for the formal swearing of charges against an accused; in military commissions, “preferred” is synonymous with “sworn” in the context of charging offenses.

Privileged Belligerent   A belligerent who complies with the laws of war; an individual belonging to one of the eight categories enumerated in Article 4 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War.

Proceeding   A part of the litigation of a trial.

Protected person  Any person entitled to protection from attack under one or more of the Geneva Conventions, including (a) civilians not taking an active part in hostilities; (b) military personnel placed out of combat by sickness, wounds or detention; and (c) military medical or religious personnel.

Protected property   Any property specifically protected from attack by the law of war (including buildings dedicated to religion, education, art, science or charitable purposes, historic monuments, hospitals, and places where the sick and wounded are collected), if such property is not being used for military purposes or is not otherwise a military objective.


No entries


Referral   Referral is the order of a convening authority that charges against an accused will be tried by a specified military commission. Once referral has taken place, the charges are considered "referred."

R.M.C.   Rules for Military Commissions.

Rules for Military Commissions   The rules established by the Secretary of Defense for conducting trials by military commission as published in the Manual for Military Commissions.


Staff Judge Advocate   A judge advocate so designated in Army, Air Force or Marine Corps, and means the principal legal advisor of a command in the Navy and Coast Guard who is a judge advocate.

sua sponte  Means that the person involved acts on that person’s own initiative, without the need for a request, motion or application.

Sworn charges  Charges that have been developed by the prosecution and which the prosecution represents under oath are supported by sufficient evidence to prosecute the case.


Torture   An act specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incident to lawful sanctions) upon another person within the actor’s custody or physical control for the purpose of obtaining information or a confession, punishment, intimidation, coercion or any reason based on discrimination of any kind.

Tribunal  A court or other adjudicatory body.


UCMJ   The Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Uniform Code of Military Justice  The federal law that governs the armed forces and provides the basis for courts-martial; 10 U.S.C. § 801 et seq.

Unprivileged Enemy Belligerent   An individual (other than a privileged belligerent) who (a) has engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners; (b) has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners; or (c) was a part of al Qaeda at the time of the alleged offense under the M.C.A. of 2009.


Victim   A person who has suffered direct physical, emotional or pecuniary harm or loss as a result of the commission of an offense as defined in the M.C.A. of 2009 or the law of war.


Withdrawn charges  Charges against an accused that were previously referred to a particular commission for trial but that are no longer referred to any commission for trial.

With prejudice   Charges that were dismissed with prejudice may not be reinstated against the same accused.

Without prejudice   Charges that were dismissed without prejudice may be reinstated against the same accused.

Witness   One who testifies at a commission and anyone whose declaration is received in evidence for any purpose, including written declarations made by affidavit or otherwise.


No entries


No entries


No entries

Privacy Policy and Legal | Accessibility/Section 508

4800 Mark Center Drive, Suite 11F09-02 Alexandria, VA 22350-2100

Copyright (c) 2024 Office of Military Commissions | Sign In