The committee expressed concern over the very broad powers given to the army to detain people suspected of involvement in terrorist activities without charge or judicial supervision
GN Bureau | May 16, 2017
A UN report has come down heavily on Pakistan’s military courts, one of which had awarded death sentence to Kulbhushan Jadhav.
India and Pakistan on Monday were pitted against each other at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) over the case of Jadhav, a former Indian naval officer found guilty by the military court of being an Indian spy. India has strongly denied the claims.
United Nations Committee against Torture said that the committee is seriously concerned at reports that members of the State party’s military forces; intelligence forces, such as the Inter-Service Intelligence agency; and paramilitary forces, such as the Frontier Corps and the Pakistan Rangers, have been implicated in a significant number of cases of extra-judicial executions involving torture and enforced disappearances.
The committee is also concerned about the possibility that the State party’s laws provide for retroactive immunity for torture by members of the military and paramilitary forces, under provisions of the Actions in Aid of Civil Power Regulation of 2011, for events after February 2008; as well as the amendment to the Army Act of 2015 which grants all personnel associated with military courts complete retrospective immunity from prosecution for actions taken in “good faith”.
The committee is also concerned by the exclusive jurisdiction of the military justice system over soldiers accused of offences against civilians. It regrets that the State party provided no information suggesting that members of the military, intelligence services, or paramilitary forces have been prosecuted and punished for acts amounting to torture as defined by the Convention.
The report said that the committee is seriously concerned that the State party has authorized military courts to try civilians for terrorism-related offences, most recently in the 23rd amendment to the Constitution of Pakistan, approved in 2017, particularly in view of the lack of independence of military court judges, which are within the military hierarchy, and practices of such courts including holding closed trials.
The committee is also concerned by the very broad powers given to the Army to detain people suspected of involvement in terrorist activities without charge or judicial supervision in internment centres under the Actions in Aid of Civil Power regulations 2011.
It said: “End the resort to military courts for terrorism related prosecutions, transfer criminal cases against civilians from military courts to civilian courts and provide the opportunity for appeal in civilian courts of cases involving civilians already adjudicated under military jurisdiction.”
Read: UN committee’s observations on Pakistan
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This piece is based on a previous article by the authors published in Geoforum [Elsevier] in May 2019: available online: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/ S0016718519300764?via%3Dihub
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