Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Don’t try civilians in military courts, HRW urges Pakistan

Paramilitary troops and police officers stand guard outside a court where Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan is scheduled to appear in Islamabad, Pakistan, May 23, 2023.  2023 Anjum Naveed/AP Photo

“The Pakistan government should immediately transfer civilians set to be tried in military courts to the civilian justice system, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday.

The human rights group stated that trying civilians before military courts violate Pakistan’s obligations under international human rights law to ensure the due process and fair trial rights of criminal suspects.

Pakistan plans to try in army courts dozens of its citizens accused of attacking military installations during protests this month after the dramatic arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan. The Pakistan police have handed 33 civilian suspects over to the army for trial in military courts.

The suspects are charged with attacking sensitive defence installations and damaging or stealing important government equipment, computers, and other sources of data collection.

The Pakistan Army Act (PAA), 1952, and Official Secrets Act, 1923 allow trying civilians in military courts only in narrowly defined circumstances, including for inciting mutiny, spying, and taking photographs of “prohibited” places.

Violence swept across Pakistan on 09 May 2023 after the police arrested former Prime Minister Imran Khan on corruption charges. Many of Khan’s supporters attacked police officers and set fire to ambulances, police vehicles, and schools. 

Among the places attacked were the military headquarters and other offices in Rawalpindi and the houses of senior military officials.

Following the clashes, the police arrested thousands of members of Khan’s political party, Tehrik-i-Insaaf, on charges of criminal intimidation, rioting, and assault on government officials.

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