Global Military Justice Reform is happy to pass along the following comments from a Pakistani lawyer who has been closely following the country's military court cases under the 21st Amendment:
1. The Supreme Court has interpreted its review jurisdiction extremely narrowly and hasn't considered any allegations of disappearance, torture, or illegal detention for being outside the scope of judicial review. This means that even if the convicts were disappeared (as their families allege), they had no forum for redress available to them.
2. The military appointed "defending officers" (Army personnel) to all 16 convicts as they (allegedly) chose not to exercise their right to engage a civil lawyer -- this sounds highly suspicious but the court takes the military's story at face value.
3. All 16 convicts confessed to their crimes. In some cases, it seems this was the only evidence against them. The court doesn't even consider the possibility of torture or ill treatment.
4. The court also says procedural irregularities do not come under the ambit of review unless they render the entire trial void (e.g., bad faith or lack of jurisdiction is proven).
5. The court accepts that after the 21st Amendment, the right to a fair trial is not applicable to the Army Act (under which military trials take place).
6. The court doesn't clarify whether minors can be tried under the army act for terrorism or not. Note that the government again takes the stance that the Army Act doesn't bar the trial of children.
In all, the latest decision is a huge disappointment. The court could have set some guidelines for fairer trials in future, but it bought the military's narrative in its entirety.This latest decision must be truly dispiriting to human rights lawyers in Pakistan.