Trials under army laws meet requirements for fair trial: Tarar

ISLAMABAD   -   Federal Minister for Law and Justice Senator Azam Nazeer Tarar on Wednes­day said cases in military courts would be proceeded in accordance with the international conventions.

Talking to journalists here at the Supreme Court, the minister said the accused would have the right for a fair trial in military court. They would have the right to hire a lawyer of their choice and present evidence in their defence. The accused would also have a right of appeal to the higher courts against the decisions of military courts, he added.

The Federal Law Minister insisted that trials under army laws met the ‘inter­nationally acknowledged minimum re­quirements’ that form the basis of a fair trial. He particularly cited Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966 regarding a fair trial, which he said gave the right to ap­point a counsel of choice, reduce de­fence evidence, have access to the rel­evant record and seek a judicial review.

The army laws ‘covered all these [as­pects] and that is why it is said that they meet the internationally acknowl­edged minimum requirements pertain­ing to the procedure and law”, he add­ed. When asked whether any “special considerations” were being mulled re­garding the trial of women under army laws, the minister replied: “Matters [pertaining to military trials] will be decided according to the operation of the law. It is not the choice of the feder­al government or any institution.

“The relevant institution will proceed on this in line with how they are satis­fied with the [available] material.”

However, he continued, no case of woman had been referred to the mil­itary court till now. The minister’s re­marks come amid concerns over the government’s decision to try May 9 suspects under army laws.

On May 9, countrywide protests had erupted after the paramilitary Rang­ers had whisked away PTI chief Imran Khan from the Islamabad High Court in a corruption case.

While the protests were under way, public and private properties, includ­ing military installations, were at­tacked and vandalised.

Subsequently, the army termed the day a “dark chapter” and announced around a week after the incidents its intent to try the rioters under relevant laws, including two military laws — the Pakistan Army Act and Official Secrets Act. The decision was endorsed by the National Security Committee — the country’s principal decision-making fo­rum on foreign policy and national se­curity — a day later amid opposition by rights organisations and activists. So far, an Lahore anti-terrorism court has sanctioned the handing over of 16 May 9 suspects to the military and a Rawal­pindi court has approved the handing over of another eight suspects — both developments having taken place with­in the span of a week in May.

During the gap between the two hear­ings, Interior Minister Rana Sanaul­lah had announced that 33 suspects — 19 in Punjab and 14 in Khyber Pa­khtunkhwa — had been handed over to the military until then, following at­tacks on army installations during pro­tests on May 9.