Media Statement – 22/9/2017
NO EXECUTIONS BASED ON MILITARY COURT’S DECISION WITHOUT BEING ACCORDED THE RIGHT TO APPEAL
Abolish the Death Penalty, And Re-Introduce the Moratorium on Execution Pending Abolition
ADPAN is appalled reports that another 4 persons, tried by Pakistan’s military courts, may be executed soon after their death sentence was confirmed by the Chief of Army. This Military Court, which came into being in January 2015, for the purpose of speedily trying persons accused of committing terrorist offences, falls short of international fair trial standards and requirements, including the denial of the right to appeal.
Decisions of these military courts, unlike normal criminal courts in Pakistan, are not subject to appeals to the High Court and/or the Supreme Court.
This denial of the right to appeal means appellate courts will not have the opportunity of analysing the evidence produced before the military court or dwelling into the “merits” of the case. This reasonably will increase the possibility of miscarriage of justice, and hence the likelihood of a person not deserving the death penalty (or even an innocent person) to be wrongfully deprived of his/her life.
The Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa confirmed on Wednesday(20/9/2017) the death sentences awarded to four alleged ‘ terrorists’. This ‘confirmation’ is really an execution order, and this four persons could thereafter be executed at any time. (Geo News, 20/9/2017; Sify.com 20/9/2017; Dawn 20/9/2017; Pakistan News Service – PakTribune 21/9/2017 ).
Shabbir Ahmed, Umara Khan, Tahir Ali and Aftabud Din, according to a government statement, vide the Inter Services Public Relations, stated that these 4 persons were ‘involved in killing of 21 persons and injuring another person’ and also that ‘…arms and explosives were also recovered from their possession…’. It also stated that they were tried by military courts that then sentenced them to death.
Earlier this month, on 8/9/2017, it was also reported that Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa had confirmed the death sentence of four other persons, being Raiz Ahmed, Hafeez ur Rehman, Muhammad Saleem and Kifayatullah. (Daily Pakistan, 8/9/2017). These persons were said to have caused the death of 16 persons, and that arms were recovered in their possession. It was also disclosed that 23 others were also awarded imprisonment of various durations by the military courts.
Pakistan had a moratorium on executions for about 8 years, until the end of 2014, when it was lifted for terrorist linked offences, and thereafter for other capital offences. Since then, about 471 persons have been executed for various crimes.
After the December 2014 terrorist attack at the Army Public School in Peshawar, the Pakistan government set up this military court for speedy trial of detained terrorists. The military courts (Field General Court Martial – FGCM) came into being in January 2015, by virtue of Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act, 2015 commonly known as the 21st Constitution Amendment. This legislation had a sunset clause, and would have expired on Jan 7, 2017.
However, in March 2017, President Mamnoon Hussain signed the 23rd Amendment Bill 2017, which has now become an Act of Parliament, that had the effect of extending duration of the military courts for another two years, starting from January 7, 2017.
Article 10 of the UN Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that, ‘Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.’ The trying and sentencing of a person/s allegedly committing a certain kind of offence before a special ‘court’, different from the court having the jurisdiction to try criminal cases in Pakistan may also be considered discriminatory,
Article 14(5) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Pakistan ratified in 2010, states clearly that, ‘ Everyone convicted of a crime shall have the right to his conviction and sentence being reviewed by a higher tribunal according to law.’
The current unavailability of the right of appeal to higher courts on convictions and/or sentences of these military courts is clearly is a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and a denial of the right to a fair trial.
ADPAN calls on Pakistan not to proceed with the executions of persons convicted and sentenced to death by the military courts, until they have been accorded the right to a fair trial including the right to have the conviction and sentence reviewed by a higher tribunal, which would reasonably be the High Court and thereafter the Supreme Court of Pakistan;
ADPAN calls for the repeal of the Constitution Amendment/s and the law that created these military courts;
ADPAN calls for all persons charged with a crime in Pakistan be tried by the already existing criminal courts of Pakistan, and shall be accorded a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal;
ADPAN calls on Pakistan to immediately re-impose a moratorium on execution, pending abolition of the death penalty.