Convening authority

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The term Convening Authority is used in the United States military 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 officers on a Court Martial, Tribunal, or Military Commission, report back to the Convening Authority their recommended verdict.[2] Unlike a civilian trial the Convening Authority's "command perogative" entitles them to amend or overturn the sentence of a court martial.[3]

The individual in over-all charge of the Guantanamo military commissions is called the Convening Authority. The first three incumbents were all, technically, civilians, although the first and third incumbents, John D. Altenburg and Bruce MacDonald, were retired admirals.[4][5] Susan Crawford, the second Convening Authority, had been a long-term senior civilian lawyer for the Department of Defense, eventually serving as the Inspector General.[6]


  1. Commanding Officers Convening Authority, Retrieved on 2010-04-14. “In referring a matter to court-martial, the CO becomes the convening authority. As such, the CO decides what charges to refer to the court-martial; what type of courts-martial; and selects the court-martial members (jury).”
  2. § 860. Art. 60. Action by the convening authority, Cornell University Law School. Retrieved on 2010-04-14. “The findings and sentence of a court-martial shall be reported promptly to the convening authority after the announcement of the sentence.”
  3. Philip D. Cave. UCMJ Clemency & Parole, Retrieved on 2011-04-22. “Under UCMJ Article 60, the convening authority has unfettered discretion as a matter of command prerogative to set aside a finding of guilty or modify a sentence, so long as a sentence is not increased.”
  4. Head of Military Commissions Quits, Wall Street Journal, November 15, 2006.
  5. Michael Isikoff. Pentagon to Name New Chief for Military Commissions in Sign That Gitmo Trials May Move Forward, Newsweek, 2010-03-24. Retrieved on 2010-04-14. “The appointment of retired Admiral Bruce MacDonald, who formerly served as the chief Judge Advocate of the Navy, as the new "convening authority" for the Office of Military Commissions is among the most important moves in an apparent gearing up for the expected new wave of trials.”
  6. Seasoned Judge Tapped to Head Detainee Trials. Department of Defense. (February 7, 2007). Retrieved on 2007-06-01. mirror