Saturday, July 2, 2016

Due process and military courts

From an Express Tribune blog post by Lahore attorney Yasser Latif Hamdani ("What standards of justice should military courts in Pakistan Adhere to?"):
The 21st Amendment paved the way for military courts to try individuals who either claim to be or are known to be part of a terrorist organisation using the name of religion or sect. The 21st Amendment was upheld by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in a landmark judgment last year. It was an extraordinary step no doubt taken to meet an extraordinary situation, and one which is not necessarily without precedent elsewhere in the world. Indeed there are many nations who have tried their citizens under the laws of war in specific circumstances, chief amongst them, the US in the aftermath of the American Civil War. So there is no legal question about the legitimacy of the military courts.
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. . . A presumption of innocence attaches to any accused till the point the prosecuting authority can make a case of that accused’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Secondly this is precisely the difference between a civilized state and barbaric terrorists – a civilised state only convicts on the basis of evidence after granting the accused the right to be heard and the right to make out his or her case to the fullest extent. This is due process. Due process separates the civilised from the barbarians. Fair trial is what distinguishes us from the terrorists.
The last two sentences of the first paragraph quoted above are unfortunate. See Ex parte Milligan, 71 U.S. 2 (1866); Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, 548 U.S. 557 (2006). The Military Commissions Act of 2009 does not permit the trial of U.S. citizens by military commissions. International human rights law strongly disfavors the trial of civilians by military courts.

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