Thursday, April 16, 2015

ICJ issues paper on Pakistan's new military courts

The International Commission of Jurists has issued a useful guide to Pakistan' controversial military courts, available here. The Supreme Court of Pakistan will consider the constitutionality of the new courts this week, before a full 17-member bench.

The Supreme Court Bar Association yesterday filed a petition with the Supreme Court challenging the first death sentences handed down by the military courts, according to this account. Dawn reports:
The petition argued that the 21st Amendment by itself did not dismiss observance of fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution. It said that despite efforts the petitioner had failed to get information whether Articles 10, 10A, 12, 13 and 14 which ensured safeguards to arrest and detention, fair trial, protection against retrospective punishment, protection against double punishment and inviolability of dignity of persons had ever been applied by military courts during the trial process.

Expressing concern over the way the accused were treated, Asma Jehangir raised a number of questions in the petition and asked whether the persons arrested were enemy aliens and, if not, were they informed about the reasons for the arrest; whether they were given the right to consult and be defended by legal practitioners of their choice and whether the accused were produced before a magistrate within 24 hours.

The petitioner contended that rights of the accused were not protected through a fair trial and by observing the established principles of due process as guaranteed under Article 10A.

Ms Jehangir said that protection against retrospective punishment had not been extended to the accused and asked whether they were tortured for the purpose of extracting evidence.

“All these factors are crucial for protecting individuals against arbitrary trials,” the petition said, adding that as a guardian of the Constitution, the Supreme Court had to ensure that fundamental rights were extended to persons arrested and tried within Pakistan.

The recent trials by the military courts were neither made public nor were they transparent, it said, adding that military trials did not ordinarily observe principles of due process and, therefore, the apprehensions of the petitioner were genuine and had merits.

Those sentenced to death penalty, the petition argued, were especially vulnerable because if “it is executed it will be irreversible”.

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