The government has recently revived the military courts. These courts were first established to combat the terrorist activities following the APS attack and were supposed to exist for two years. With the extension of these courts, it seems as if it will take a while before military courts are suspended in Pakistan. Until then, it is crucial to know about the following facts regarding military courts.
1. The first military court
On 17 October 1979, Zia-ul-Haq established the military courts for the first time in Pakistan, which
sidelined the civilian courts in the country. These courts were then used to impose several bans on political activities which refrained our political system from flourishing. Zia-ul-Haq also used military courts to keeps a tab on media and muzzled every news against him.
2. Number of executions
326 people have been executed in Pakistan in 2015 alone. Most of them were killed on the orders of military courts. According to an ICJ's report, military courts convicted 274 individuals and handed down 161 death sentences.
3. Lack of transparency
There is no legal procedure which defines the work cycle of a military court. The decisions made by these courts cannot be challenged in any civilian court. Only a little information exists about the basis of convictions and acquittals.Also, the evidence is rarely made public. To top it all, no media is allowed to observe proceedings of any case.
4. Identities of suspects
The identities of suspects are not made public under any circumstances. One never comes to know about the charges or evidence against them. No information can be gathered about the sentences or appeals from the military courts. An investigation by Reuters of previous military court martial found that accusations of torture were common.
5. Procedure of trials
According to a supreme court's hearing on missing persons, the military is holding thousands of civilians without any trial. The government cannot do anything in these cases.
6. Criteria for case selections
Any criteria for the selection of cases for the military courts has not been made public by the government. We don't know what kind of cases can be passed to these courts. Even the location and timings of the trials are kept hidden. No independent monitoring of military trials has been allowed.
Defendants are often denied the copies of a judgment with the evidence and reasoning.
7. Enforced disappearances
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has reported that defendants facing military tribunals are subjected to enforced disappearance, torture, and other ill-treatment. These allegations have not been adequately investigated, giving rise to concerns about convictions based on unlawfully obtained confessions.
8. Violation of international laws
The reinstatement of military courts has proved to be a violation of Pakistan's international human rights obligation. The Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Pakistan ratified in 2010, guarantees everyone the right to timely trial by a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal.
9. A sign of hope
The new bill passed regarding these military courts, however, has some amendments, including allowing suspects to choose their own lawyer. Defendants were not allowed to hire their own
lawyers earlier. Under the new law, a suspect must also read the charges at the time of arrest and be produced in a military court within 24 hours.