Pakistan: Military courts won’t deliver justice
Pakistan’s lawmakers must immediately reverse their decision to reinstate military courts, Amnesty International said today.
Two months after their original mandate of two years lapsed, Pakistan’s parliament passed a bill to reinstate military courts that violate international law, strip defendants of key rights, and operate in notorious secrecy.
“Military courts have no business trying civilians. There is no fair process involved where trials are held in secrecy, there is no right to appeal, and judges may be unqualified to preside in judgment,” said David Griffiths, Amnesty International’s Senior Adviser on South Asia.
“By surrendering the judicial system to the military, Pakistan’s lawmakers have failed in their duty to support an independent civilian judiciary. They are recklessly abandoning people to a court system that has in the last two years produced coerced confessions, unfair trials and executions.”
Under Pakistan’s military courts, no information about the charges or evidence against the suspects, or the sentences given, is made available in the public domain.
The military courts came in force in January 2015 after the massacre of at least 142 people – including 132 children -by the Taliban at an army school in Peshawar in December 2014. Under decisions of the military courts, Pakistan has carried out at least 17 executions.
The military courts were given a two year mandate as a temporary measure while the civilian courts were strengthened. However, no visible efforts have been made by the government to strengthen the judiciary in this period. Since Pakistan lifted the moratorium on the death penalty in December 2014, Pakistan earned the notoriety of becoming the world’s third most prolific executioner in 2015. “The death penalty is vengeance not justice. It is not an effective deterrent, fails to address the root causes of conflict, and perpetuates a cycle of violence,” said David Griffiths.
Amnesty International considers that the criminal jurisdiction of military courts, in Pakistan and in any other country, should be limited to trials of members of the military for breaches of military discipline; it should not extend to other crimes, including crimes under international law or human rights violations.
In accordance with international law, Amnesty International opposes the use of military courts to try civilians and, along with other organizations, has documented a catalogue of human rights violations flowing from them, including coerced confessions, opaque processes, executions, and unfair trials.