Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Military courts and juvenile offenders

The Daily Times editorial board has sounded a cautionary note on whether cases involving young people should be tried in Pakistan's military courts. The editorial argues:
Much has been written about the secretive and dubious process of the military courts, and there have been challenges to their legality. However, the argument of 'necessity' and a broken judicial system won out, with the speediness and unhindered nature of military courts appealing to both the public and the political class. But even if one is resigned to the legality of the military courts, the obsession with hurrying through cases and expediting the executions of suspected terrorists with zeal must be checked. In our collective desire to eliminate terrorism we must not lose our heads because the purpose of justice is not to exact revenge but protect the fundamental ideals and principles of society. So even if it is proved that juveniles were responsible for the terrorist activities they are accused of, putting them on trial as adults is a ghastly prospect. The spirit of the law dictates that underage people cannot be held accountable for their actions in the same way that adults are, and this principle cannot be stretched even in the case of terrorism. By the military’s own admission, the juveniles involved in terrorism are brainwashed by their terrorist handlers using a multiplicity of psychological methods and drugs. This makes it even more imperative that they be treated not as accountable perpetrators but as manipulated young minds who are victims themselves. Rather than clamouring to end their lives, the focus should be on reforming and rehabilitating them. The fight against terrorism cannot be won by racking up the body count but by changing mindsets.

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