The National Assembly's briefing on whether to revive Pakistan's military courts' power to try civilians is only two days off. According to this
report, the Defence Ministry will provide a "performance report" on January 17 about how the 21st Amendment courts functioned during their two-year existence. Lawmakers have posed seven questions, but what they are remains unknown to the public. That being the case, here are the bare minimum questions the Editor believes must be answered in any "performance report":
1. How many cases, by province, were referred to 21st Amendment courts during their two-year life span?
2. For each case, state the name of the accused and defense counsel, the charges, the pleas, the findings, the sentence, the date(s) on which the case was heard, and whether any part of the proceedings were conducted in public.
3. If any accused was not afforded the right to lawyer defense counsel of his own choosing, why not?
4. For each case, state the issues raised by the defense, and their resolution, attaching copies of the rulings on all substantive motions.
5. Was the voluntariness of a confession litigated in any case? If so, what procedure was used to resolve the matter in each such case?
6. Did any accuseds contend that they had been subjected to torture before they confessed? If so, what procedure was used to resolve the matter in each such case?
7. What opportunity did each convicted person have to prepare briefs and present oral argument to the Army Court of Appeal, and if there was a hearing was it open to the public?
8. How many of the voting members of the Court of Appeal were lawyers in each case?
9. How much time elapsed between sentencing and decision by the Court of Appeal?
10. Provide copies of all decisions of the Court of Appeal in 21st Amendment cases.
11. Did the Court of Appeal reverse or modify and judgment? If so, on what grounds?
12. What opportunity did each convicted person have to seek clemency from the Chief of Army Staff and the President?
13. If the Chief of Army Staff or the President granted clemency in any case, provide copies of the decisional document(s).
14. What 21st Amendment cases have been challenged in the civilian courts, and what have been the results of those challenges? What challenges are currently pending, and what issues do they present?
Central to the issue presented to the National Assembly is improving the administration of justice in the civilian courts, since the purpose of the 21st Amendment was to afford an opportunity to do so. This leads to a final question that conscientious members of the NA must ask themselves, rather than the Defence Ministry:
15. State with particularity those concrete
steps that will be taken (and when they will be taken) to ensure that -- if the 21st Amendment is revived for any further period of time (notwithstanding applicable human rights norms) -- the civilian courts will at or before the second sunset date be in a position to dispense justice in all cases involving civilian defendants, no ifs, ands or buts
If you were attending the January 17 briefing, what other questions would you want answered? Feel free to comment (real names only, please).
For essential background reading, see this excellent June 2016 report
from the International Commission of Jurists.