Saturday, April 4, 2015

Secrecy and the first Pakistani 21st Amendment trials; April 16 Supreme Court full bench hearing on constitutional petitions

Dawn has published both an editorial and a news article about the first round of cases to emerge from the military courts authorized by the 21st Amendment to the Pakistani Constitution.

The editorial, headed "Military 'justice,'" comments:
HAD there been any hesitation in recognising that the constitutionally empowered military courts system hastily set up in the wake of December’s Peshawar school massacre is one that is abhorrent and in violation of the most basic principles of justice, then the revelation that six accused have been sentenced to death and a seventh sentenced to life imprisonment should extinguish even that vestige of doubt.

Consider first the form as announced over the DG ISPR’s Twitter account — “#Mil Courts: Army Chief confirms death sentence of 6 hard core terrorists tried by the recently established mil courts.”

There is surely something terribly wrong with a judicial system in which the first time the public learns about death sentences for six individuals is via a press officer of a non-judicial head of a military institution. Are judges no longer allowed to speak via their judgements in even the most solemn of cases? 
There are then the substantive issues. Who are these men? What crimes have they been accused of and now convicted for? What evidence was presented? What kind of legal representation was available to the accused? And what is the appeals process that is available to the convicted men?
The editorial also notes that "nothing — nothing at all — has been done to try and reform the broken criminal justice system in the country."

Dawn's news story reports in turn that a full bench of the Supreme Court of Pakistan will hear the numerous constitutional petitions concerning the 18th and 21st Amendments to the Constitution on Thursday, April 16.

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