Saturday, August 15, 2015

Call for transparency, concern about civilian judicial review for Pakistan's military courts

"Now what?" is the question properly raised in this Dawn editorial in Pakistan:
A majority of the apex court judges explicitly held that the new military court regime must provide a fair trial and adequate procedural safeguards, and that sentences handed down by military courts will be judicially reviewable by the high courts and the [Supreme Court] itself.
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[I]n the absence of absolutely any details of the trial, it is impossible to assess whether a reasonable and independent assessment would concur with the claim that a fair trial was provided.
Intriguingly, the [Inter Services Public Relations] press release makes no mention of the “hardcore terrorists” right to appeal to the high courts and the SC. Instead, there is simply this assertion: “The convicts have the right to file an appeal before the Military Court of Appeals.” That in and of itself does not violate the SC judgement, given that appeals to the high courts usually take place after appeals in other permissible forums have been exhausted.

But it is striking that there is no mention of what the SC explicitly asserted just a week ago. It does appear that the military is determined to maintain maximum control over the process by which civilians accused of terrorism are dealt with by the military courts.
With seven death sentences already adjudged by military courts and approved by the Chief of Army Staff, it is only a matter of time before issue will be joined over whether the civilians courts will be permitted to play the role asserted for them by the Supreme Court in The Military Courts Case. If any execution is carried out before the civilian courts have functioned, the fat will be in the fire.

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