United States v. Rockwood

48 M.J. 501 (1998)

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United States v. Rockwood

United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals
48 M.J. 501 (1998)

Facts

Army Captain Lawrence Rockwood (defendant) was a counterintelligence officer who traveled to Haiti as a member of a United States military joint task force. This joint task force was part of a larger United Nations multinational task force that was working to restore peace and security following instability in Haiti’s government. Rockwood became aware of intelligence reports that the prisoners at Haiti’s national penitentiary were experiencing conditions severe enough to potentially qualify as human-rights abuses. Rockwood reported the information to his superiors, the staff judge advocate’s office, and the division chaplain, and he attempted to initiate an investigation into the penitentiary’s conditions. However, Rockwood’s superiors were focused on operational security concerns and did not authorize an immediate inspection of the penitentiary. Rockwood filed a complaint with his unit’s inspector general, claiming that the joint task force was ignoring probable human-rights violations. A few hours later, without authorization, Rockwood went to personally inspect the penitentiary’s conditions. Because Rockwood was on this unauthorized personal trip, he failed to report for his duty shift that evening. A court-martial convicted Rockwood of several crimes relating to his disobedience. On appeal, Rockwood argued that his disobedience was necessary to avoid international criminal liability because (1) the United Nations task force, including the United States joint task force, was occupying Haiti and (2) as a member of that occupying task force, Rockwood had an individual legal duty under international law to prevent and respond to human-rights violations. Rockwood claimed that this individual duty was created by general international law, the prosecution against General Yamashita for allowing troops under his control to commit war crimes during World War II, and the Nuremberg-defense cases that had held individuals accountable for human-rights violations even though the individuals had a domestic legal duty to commit those violations.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Carter, J.)

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