Friday, November 16, 2018

Sham proceedings

Reema Omer of the International Commission of Jurists has written this disturbing summary for The Statesman concerning the October decision of the Peshawar High Court overturning the military court convictions of  more than 70 civilians. The decision itself, which has been stayed by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, is not yet available on the High Court's website. Excerpt from Ms. Omer's analysis:
[T]he court questioned the competence of the defence counsel of the accused. Under the Army Act, accused persons have the right to engage private civilian defence counsel at their expense. The court found it odd that only one lawyer from Punjab was engaged by all accused persons. And even though families of a number of convicts had engaged “costly and senior counsel” to challenge their convictions in review before the high court, during their trials they had allegedly “consented” to be represented by the same defence counsel with only five or six years’ experience.

It also expressed concern that it was not clear in what language the counsel communicated with the accused, and whether they were allowed to consult with him confidentially.

It characterised the defence counsel as a “dummy”, and held that the trials were a “complete prosecution show”, where the accused were “denied of their legal and fundamental right” to engage counsels of their choice and present a defence.
On facts like these, it is not hard to see why the High Court took the action it did. 

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