Internationally-recognized human rights lawyer Asma Jahangir
has given a powerful, straight-talking interview
to Pakistan Today
about military courts. Excerpt:
Question: How does one judge the success, or otherwise, of an initiative like military courts in our particular present setting? Do you feel the last two years of military courts was a successful initiative?
Asma Jahangir: Well, the last two years’ experience has been very poor. First of all a large number of people who have been convicted by the military courts were already in military custody in the internment centres in Swat. Then to get their confession after four years and convict them is a sheer travesty of justice. There were no lawyers at the trial, the accused were not even shown their records and the entire judgment was cut and paste for everyone. The whole practice was very stereotypical. So if you have to go through the motions of having a military court when everyone knows this is just for their own sake. You may as well allow them to choose whom they want to punish and whom they don’t want to punish.
Secondly, they have not done great wonders in a number of cases they have attended to, despite the fact that they’ve hardly sat over these cases in a proper trial, they mostly handed down convictions over confessions. The last thing is they don’t allow an accused to be represented through a lawyer, although it is in their Army Act and they even violated their Army Act. They did not allow it. Now the Supreme Court has said that it is the right of the accused to be represented by a lawyer. Now in all trials people will be more aware and will take lawyers with them. That means that these trials will linger on as lawyers will ask for due process. There will be lot of tension between practising lawyers and the JAG Department, since they are not practising lawyers, they are self-made, self-professed lawyers. So I don’t see it all working out well.
There's more where this came from. Read the whole interview.
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