Friday, January 13, 2017

Why military courts?

Islamabad attorney Babar Sattar has written this smart op-ed for The News International. Excerpt:
In the two years that military courts were functioning and handing out death sentences, we didn’t get a sense that terrorists were now so scared of being hanged that they were refusing to blow themselves up. But more importantly, despite all power vested in intelligence and law-enforcement agencies by the new and revised laws, and the absolute power vested in military courts, people still kept going missing. What explains this conundrum? Was the original diagnosis wrong? Was it never about inadequate laws?
What is the real appeal of military courts? That they are effective and efficient? That military officers working as judges and prosecutors are not exposed and so not afraid? That cases are decided on time and the decisions are executed on time? Forget the structural problems with these courts with the military acting as police, investigator, judge and executioner. Does anyone know what kind of evidence is presented that leads to convictions? Are any witnesses presented? Are they cross-examined? Are the accused advised and defended by counsel? 
The real appeal of military courts is that they don’t have to give reasons for what they do. The trials are not public and the rulings are not subject to scrutiny. No one hears the stories of the accused or why they did what they did. The decisions lead to no debate about right or wrong or whether these courts are striking the right balance between safety and efficiency while awarding death to citizens. They allow everyone not to address thorny moral and policy issues: undisturbed sources of extremism within society that support the supply-chain of terror.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for bringing that to our attention. In my views, this story illustrates three major points:

    1) It's not because you have a 'military court' on paper that you have a 'military court' in real life. (See: Roscoe Pound,"Law in Books and Law in Action" (1910)). My thoughts are with Pakistan jurists who try to make it happen.

    2) In the world, you have military courts and military courts. In other terms, all military courts cannot be put in the same basket by those who are opposed to military jurisdiction. You need at least, a model to compare features according to standardized factors. Such model assists in identifying where you might need reforms;

    3) More broadly, we need to keep an eye on this because if what Mr. Sattar reports is true, it is likely to create undue resentment which might be counter-effective over the long run in the global effort against terrorism. A fallacy of Rule of Law is as bad as if there were no Rule of Law at all.


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).