Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins ’90 accepted the Medal of Freedom, the highest honor conferred by Harvard Law School, and gave the Dean’s Distinguished Lecture on April 18 at HLS.
Established to honor the achievements of individuals who have worked to uphold the legal system’s fundamental commitment to freedom, justice and equality, the medal has been awarded to the Brown v. Board of Education litigation team, Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry and South African President Nelson Mandela.
In September 2009, Martins was assigned as interim commander of the Joint Task Force 435, in Afghanistan. One year later, he assumed command of the newly established Rule of Law Field Force-Afghanistan, which provides essential field capabilities, liaisons, and security in partnership with Afghan and coalition civil-military rule-of-law project teams.
In these roles, Martins has led the effort to reform U.S. detention operations, and he has repeatedly stressed that continued progress in Afghanistan depends not only on strengthening the democratic process but also on building the rule of law, particularly in dealing with counterinsurgents.
“[Afghanistan’s] lack of governance … is accompanied by a lack of confidence in the government’s ability to deliver justice, resolve civil disputes and address a perceived culture of impunity among the powerful,” he said. “Establishing the rule of law in these districts is critical to the kind of sound governance that will enable an enduring transition of security responsibility to Afghan forces and deny that rugged country as a sanctuary for global threats.”
He highlighted examples of U.S. strategy for the development of the rule of law in Iraq and Afghanistan, and discussed possibilities for moving forward.
“Rule of law in Iraq and Afghanistan remains mostly just a goal, but also an indispensable one, [and] the challenges are very practical ones,” he said.
Commissioned in the infantry after graduating first in his class from the United States Military Academy, Martins was a Rhodes scholar at Oxford in 1985 and earned his J.D. from HLS in 1990. He holds an LL.M. in military law and a master’s degree in national security strategy.