Friday, January 30, 2015

A practitioner's comments on Pakistan's courts-martial

Dr. Abdul Razzak, a sociologist as well as a defense counsel before Pakistan's military courts, has written this op-ed for The News International. Among his insights:
. . . Placing reliance upon military courts may be need of the time and perhaps the only option within the given social milieu. However, it needs to be appreciated that military courts are meant to deal with a military society that passes through a peculiar process of socialization, has distinct cultural traditions and there is zero tolerance against individual or collective deviance. The military officers dealing with process of justice are neither trained to adjudicate nor they are trained in application and interpretation of law. As military commanders they adjudicate deviant conduct to preserve discipline by all means. The military justice system usually does not negotiate justice by disregarding the essence of discipline. In our case the military society is a closed society and it jealously guards itself against any outside interference. The military persons are subject to a distinct law where there are no remedies in respect of fundamental rights. The process of investigation, pre-trial scrutiny and the process of trial itself is subservient to the intentions of the military commander ordering the trial. The military officers conducting the trial are often subordinate to or inferior in rank to the military commander convening the court. Most importantly the military court is not required to record any reasons to justify its judgment and it is only required to pass a finding of guilty or otherwise and award sentence. If there is no speaking order wherein evidence relied upon is discussed and analyzed, it becomes almost impossible for an appellate forum to review the judgment. The convicted person faces hardship in understanding the substance of case against him. This perhaps is not only illegal and unconstitutional but also is against the universal standards of administration of justice. Under the law a military court is an open court but hardly any proceedings are conducted in public view. The judgments of military courts in Pakistan are not open to any independent scrutiny by a civil court unlike several other countries including India, China, Canada, Australia and the list goes on. There is an appellate forum within the services which again is manned and managed by military officers. It is not the purpose here to stigmatize the process and procedure of trial by military courts. The idea is to draw attention towards the gap which is needed to be filled to present a better outlook of trials by military courts even if it is an undesirable option for a limited period of two years. . . .
 Dr. Razzak argues -- as have others -- that Pakistan should take the current opportunity to fix its dysfunctional civilian justice system. Editor's query: not so fast about pointing to China as a model for civilian appellate review of courts-martial given the virtually complete lack of transparency.

1 comment:

  1. Martial law is the imposition of the highest-ranking military officer as the military governor or as the head of the government, thus removing all power from the previous executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government .
    Pakistan Web Online


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