Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Dawn seeks sunset for military courts amendment

Dawn, the leading Pakistani newspaper, has published this strong editorial about the country's military courts:
UZAIR Baloch, the alleged mafia kingpin from Lyari in Karachi, has been accused of many things. Killing security personnel and rival gang members, drug trafficking, land grabbing, extortion — the list of serious crimes Baloch is accused of is a serious and lengthy one. Now, to that already lengthy list has been added the accusation of spying for Iran. The Joint Investigation Team tasked with interrogating Lyari’s most infamous resident appears to have elicited a confession from Baloch that has rendered it necessary, in the view of the JIT, to have him tried in a military court. That rather extraordinary recommendation has come despite the Karachi operation being the catalyst for legal changes that have made it easier for the state to prosecute individuals in anti-terrorism courts. Given the range of crimes Mr Baloch is accused of, he should be tried by the criminal justice system instead of the military — it is both the right and fair thing to do. Right because the victims and survivors of his alleged crimes deserve to see justice done. Fair because military courts simply cannot guarantee the due process and transparency that every accused must receive. 
Clearly, espionage is a serious crime and evidence presented in a trial must be handled sensitively where necessary. But to despatch Uzair Baloch to his fate in a military court would be to send a signal that military courts are increasingly being seen as the default option when it comes to the most high-profile criminals in the country — a further unwelcome encroachment on and militarisation of the criminal justice system. Baloch is accused of being a politically connected gangster, not someone who has waged an ideological war against the state. The red lines that were promised at the time of the creation of a new system of military courts under the 21st Amendment in January 2014 appear to be deliberately being blurred by vested interests. Instead of looking to wind down the use of military courts as the two-year sunset clause in the 21st Amendment approaches, sections of the state seem to be trying to normalise their existence. If creating the exception was an egregious violation of the Constitution, normalising the use of military courts would effectively dismantle the criminal justice system. The Supreme Court still has an opportunity to correct a mistake by giving a thoughtful decision on the appeals by individuals convicted by military courts so far. [Emphasis added.]

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are subject to moderation and must be submitted under your real name. Anonymous comments will not be posted (even though the form seems to permit them).