Pakistan Supreme Court stays death sentences handed by military courts

The interim order to stay executions was passed on a petition by the Supreme Court Bar Association which has challenged the setting up of the military courts.

By Afzal Khan

Published: Sat 18 Apr 2015, 12:41 AM

Last updated: Thu 25 Jun 2015, 8:38 PM

Islamabad — The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed execution of six militants on terror charges awarded death sentence by military courts.

The interim order to stay executions was passed on a petition by the Supreme Court Bar Association which has challenged the setting up of the military courts. It maintained that the military courts held secret trials which violated fundamental rights.

Asma Jehangir leaves the Supreme Court building after the hearing in Islamabad on Thursday. — AFP

The SCBA had filed an application through Asma Jehangir, requesting the apex court to pass an interim order staying execution of the men convicted by the military courts till the final disposal of the constitutional petition.

Chief Justice of Pakistan Nasirul Mulk, who headed the 17-judge panel hearing the case, said the trial of the convicts was not public, while these were just death sentences that were made public.

“The recent trials of military courts are neither public nor transparent and military courts do not ordinarily observe principle of due process thus the apprehensions of the petitioner are genuine and have merit,” read the plea.

Rights lawyer Asma Jehangir, who filed a separate petition against the secrecy surrounding the military trials, claimed ongoing trials being heard by the new tribunals would continue. “The court has not suspended hearing and trials in other cases,” she told reporters.

“We are against these kangaroo courts, we will challenge other trials if it is proven that these courts are against the basic human rights.”

The Supreme Court order said those convicted by military courts had the right to appeal and directed the attorney general to file a reply in the case by April 22.

Earlier Asma told the court that families of those convicted were not even told the trials were going on, and only learned about them through media reports.

Senior lawyer and Col. (retd) Inamur Rehman, who has defended cases before the military courts, hailed Thursday’s ruling as a “great achievement”.

“It shows that the judiciary is performing its role independently and no parallel judiciary can be allowed to work in the country,” he said.

He said terrorists should be tried and if found guilty executed, but only through a free and fair trial.

Parliament has approved the use of the courts for two years, and cases are referred to them by provincial governments.

But some have called for the trials to be more transparent.

Critics have raised questions about how fair and accountable the military courts are.

Nine military courts were established in January, after terrorists attacked a school in Peshawar, killing 134 pupils and 19 adults. Amid popular pressure to launch crackdown on terrorists after the school attack in December, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif championed the new courts in parliament and lifted a moratorium on the death penalty.

Noor Saeed, Haider Ali, Murad Khan, Inayatullah, Israruddin and Qari Zahir were condemned to death on April 2 by the military courts which have been established through a constitutional amendment under the National Action Plan.

(With inputs from AFP)

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