Monday, January 9, 2017

Political jockeying in Pakistan

The trial of civilians by military courts is strongly disfavored by contemporary human right standards. Two days ago, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan expired. It had authorized military courts to try civilians. In 2015 the country's Supreme Court wrote hundreds of pages to uphold the 21st Amendment. Given that precedent, the court will do so again if the question is presented again.

Global Military Justice Reform continues to monitor the news coming out of Pakistan. The latest reports suggest that the authorities (the Army? the government?) are attempting to set the stage to revive the 21st Amendment courts or some facsimile thereof. A government press statement claims that those courts had been effective in reducing terrorism. Party leaders seem to be jockeying for position. What is missing from the picture is (with rare exception) any recognition that the government did nothing -- nada, zero, zilch -- during the short life of the 21st Amendment to get the regular civilian courts on track so that there would be no need to resort to military courts to try civilians. That was the purpose of the two-year sunset.

The next few days will be pivotal for the rule of law in Pakistan. Stay tuned.

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