Wednesday, August 12, 2015

More military courts legislation in Pakistan

Both houses of the Pakistani legislature have approved a measure to protect and indemnify military court officials. According to this article in Dawn:
The bill, which is already in the field in the form of an ordinance promulgated by President Mamnoon Hussain in February, seeks amendments to Section 2 of the Army Act, 1952, allowing the military courts to hold in-camera trials and hiding the names of court officials “for the protection of witnesses, president, members, prosecutors, defending officers and other persons concerned in court proceedings”. 
It says: “….any person arrested, detained or held in custody by the armed forces, civil armed forces or law-enforcement agencies and kept under arrest, custody or detention before the coming into force of the Pakistan Army Amendment Act, 2015, shall be deemed to have been arrested or detained pursuant to the provision of this act.”
The measure fails to take account of important aspects of last week's Supreme Court ruling. Details here. Excerpt:
The bill was challenged by opposition leaders who said it was inconsistent with the Supreme Court’s recent judgment on the 21st Constitutional Amendment. 
The constitutional amendment under which the military trial courts were established to fast track terrorism cases was upheld in the Supreme Court last week. 
Judges however also ruled that defendants have the right to fair trial and those convicted could appeal in a civil court. 
PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said that the Pakistan Army (Amendment) Bill contradicted the Supreme Court ruling and its passage should be delayed for wider consultation. 
He said that eight out of 13 judges held that trial by military courts were subject to certain safeguards. 
“These safeguards included; one that a reference to military courts by the federal government was subject to judicial review; two, the military courts were bound to provide the accused with fair trial and reasonable procedural safeguards and three, the judgments of the military courts were subject to judicial review by the superior courts,” he said. 
Babar said that the existing practice of military courts pronouncing death penalty against unnamed accused by unnamed judges and without any mention of charges, the case of the prosecution, the defence plea and disallowing independent observers militated against the requirement of adequate procedural safeguards.

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