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Article 131 Perjury

Article 131 concerns perjury. The perjury charge alleges that the service member has given false testimony, willfully and with intention to corrupt, concerning the matter being probed, during a judicial proceeding or course of justice. If the defendant is held guilty of perjury, he will be handed fit punishment by a court martial.

For a charge of perjury to be valid, the defendant must have been placed under oath (or any form that can substitute for an oath). Alternatively, he must have given a statement through a declaration, verification or certificate or must have supplied false material to the inquiry.

Maximum punishments for perjury under Article 131

The maximum punishment that can be given to an enlisted member convicted of perjuring himself is five years of confinement dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pay and allowances and.

Conditions to hold the charge of perjury valid

  • The statement given by the defendant is proven false.
  • The defendant did not believe that the statement he gave was true.
  • The defendant was placed under an oath which was administered by an authorized person.
  • The defendant has willfully has given wrong testimony even after being administered the oath.
  • The defendant has subscribed a false statement, declaration, certification or verification, even when he knew that the there was a penalty for giving wrong information.

More explanations under the article

A court martial trial comes under the definition of judicial proceedings. Course of justice concerns an investigation under Article 32. An enlisted person can be charged with perjury only before a duly constituted court martial.

A person shall be slapped with a perjury charge if it is shown that he has testified to the truth of a matter, even when he did not anything about it or is not sure about is veracity. He shall also be charged with perjury if he has testified falsely against a belief, impression, remembrance, opinion or judgment. The accused cannot defend himself by saying that his testimony was voluntarily, he is incompetent to bear witness, or he gave the statements in response to questions that he could have not answered if he wanted.

It is not necessary that the false testimonial be the main matter in the case. For instance, an enlisted member can also be charged with perjury if he gives false testimony about a material witness's credibility in an affidavit filed to request a continuance, or gives false testimony about a fact which may exist or not exist.

Circumstantial evidence cannot be used to prove a charge of perjury except where the nature of the matter is such that direct proof cannot be provided. The testimony given by a single witness is not enough to prove the falsity of a statement unless such a testimony contradicts the defendant's statement directly and is backed up with either circumstantial or direct evidence. This evidence must prove that the statement given by the enlisted member is false.

Example of perjury charges

In February 2013, it was revealed that the rooms where Guantanamo Bay detainees met with their attorneys, were bugged. The bugs had been concealed in smoke detectors. When the Colonel, who had recently taken over as Warden of Guantanamo Bay was called in to testify, he said that he had only recently come to know about the bugging. He also said that he had given orders that the detainees' conversations with their attorneys should not be monitored. But in later investigations, it was revealed that the wiring to the bugs had been repaired after he came in.

The Colonel was accused of perjury after an investigation by the Center of Policy and Research. The final report accused the Colonel of giving inconsistent statements on his knowledge about the bugs and the time when he came to know about them. For more information on this article, please refer to the Manual for Courts Martial.

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