Monday, November 6, 2023

In defense, or not, of military trials of civilians

The Daily Times has this op-ed by retired Pakistani Army officer Sikandar Noorani (at left), marshaling the arguments in favor of trying civilians in military courts. Excerpt:

The recurrence of attacks in Baluchistan and KP provinces is a stark reminder that war against the terrorism is not yet over. Advocacy for the ideal constitutional model of a fair trial remains valid in principle but arguments isolated from ground realities usually distort the opinions. It is precisely happening in Pakistan on the issue of military courts. A balanced stance on the sensitive issues of judicial supremacy, fundamental human rights and security compulsions is better than a rhetorical course. Before imposing a blanket ban on the trial of civilians in military courts, one should comprehend the origin of this practice. Brainstorming in silos about fair trial procedures and the rights of an accused will be an unfair approach towards the precarious security dynamics of Pakistan. 

For an opposing view, consider this article by Rida Hosain (at right), a barrister who is counsel in the current litigation. Excerpt:

In the last few days, many examples have been given of how other jurisdictions permit trial of civilians by military courts. These examples have been devoid of context. In England, there are limited categories of civilians who are subject to service discipline including: civilians who are members of military organisations, civilians working in support of the armed forces, civilians on board a crown chip or aircraft etc. Even in the US, the Uniform Code of Military Justice states, in times of “declared war or a contingency operation”, persons serving with or accompanying an armed force in the field can be subject to court martial. The jurisdiction primarily extends to civilians who are serving, or working with the army in certain limited circumstances.

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