Military Tribunals

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Military Tribunals


in the USSR, courts that hold trials in the armed forces of the USSR. A part of the unified juridical system of the USSR.

The organization and procedure for the work of the military tribunals are regulated by the Statute on Military Tribunals of Dec. 28, 1958, and the Statute on the Supreme Court of the USSR of Feb. 12, 1957.

The system of military courts consists of military tribunals of large military units, garrisons, and units, which are courts of original jurisdiction in criminal cases. (Civil cases are tried by military courts only in areas where wartime circumstances prevent the functioning of the regular courts.) The military tribunals of certain branches of the armed forces, districts, fleets, and army groups are appellate courts with respect to military tribunals of large military units, garrisons, and units, and they also try certain more important cases as courts of original jurisdiction. The highest court is the Military Collegium of the Supreme Court of the USSR.

Military tribunals are called upon to combat infringements on the security of the USSR, on the military preparedness of its armed forces, on military discipline, and on the system of military service established in the armed forces of the USSR. The trying of cases in military tribunals is carried out, as it is in regular courts, on a collegiate basis. As a court of original jurisdiction a military tribunal tries cases under a president and two people’s assessors chosen from a number of servicemen; cases involving appeals and protests, as well as cases involving protests of judicial review, are heard by three permanent members of the military tribunal.

The permanent members of military tribunals (including presidents) are elected by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR for a term of five years; those elected to these posts can be any citizens of the USSR who are on active duty in the military service and who have reached the age of 25 by the day of their election. The people’s assessors of the military tribunals are elected for a term of two years by open voting at general meetings of servicemen in their military units.

Military tribunals employ the criminal code of the particular Union republic where the crime occurred, in accordance with the standards of the code of criminal procedure of that republic on whose territory the case is being tried.

Cases referred to the jurisdiction of the military tribunals include all crimes committed by servicemen or by reservists while in reserve training; all crimes committed by officers, sergeants, or enlisted men in the bodies of state security; crimes against the established order of service duty committed by command personnel of corrective-labor units; crimes of officers, sergeants, or enlisted men who are serving as convoy guards in the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR; and cases of espionage. If a case is under the jurisdiction of a tribunal even with respect to one accused person, then the entire case with respect to the remaining accused as well is tried by the military tribunal; and if only one of the crimes committed comes under the jurisdiction of the military tribunal, then all other crimes committed by that same person are tried by the military tribunal. All servicemen who are included in military tribunals are on active duty and military regulations extend to them as well; however, members of military tribunals cannot be held criminally responsible, re-moved from their posts, or subjected to arrest without the consent of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. In the tribunals of districts, fleets, and army groups there are collegiums that deal with disciplinary cases; they try cases involving offenses against and violations of juridical ethics on the part of the presidents and members of military tribunals.


“Polozhenie o voennykh tribunalakh.” Vedomosti Verkhovnogo Soveta SSSR, 1959, no. 1.
Sbornik zakonov SSSR, 1938-1961. Moscow, 1961. Pages 792-97.


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