Monday, August 29, 2016

Pakistan Supreme Court upholds military court convictions

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has ruled for the government in the cases challenging convictions by military courts under the country's 2015 21st Amendment. According to this Reuters account:
Lawyers for all 16 convicts contended their clients had been tried in secret, without access to legal counsel of their choice, and that their confessions had been recorded illegally. They also claimed they were denied access to military court records when preparing their appeals. 
The complaints echoed those made by lawyers and families of those convicted by the courts to Reuters. Two families and one lawyer said they had been threatened after filing appeals. Several told Reuters that confessions were "coerced" by the military. 
Sajid Ilyas Bhatti, the deputy attorney general representing the government, denied the appellants' claims, saying they had been accorded their rights.
He argued that military court proceedings were "immune from challenge on the ground of any alleged violation of the fundamental rights".
In its 182-page judgment, the court concluded that the appellants failed to prove wrongdoing on the part of the military authorities.
The judgment is not yet available on the court's website. The 21st Amendment expires in January. It was enacted because the civilian courts were ineffectual. No steps have been taken to improve the administration of justice in the civilian courts since then, so it unfortunately is to be expected that the amendment will be extended or made permanent.

Human rights law strongly disfavors the trial of civilians by military courts.

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