Military Courts and Human Rights: oral statement to UN Human Rights Council

The Colombian Commission of Jurists, an affiliate of the ICJ, today called for the UN Human Rights Council to uphold the use of civilian courts, rather than military tribunals, to try civilians and to adjudicate claims for human rights violations.

An oral statement to the UN Human Rights Council highlighted that:

  • military tribunals should as a matter of principle have no jurisdiction to try civilians or to adjudicate claims of serious human rights violations;
  • These matters should be the domain of civilian courts; and
  • The jurisdiction of military tribunals should be restricted to specifically military offenses committed by military personnel.

The oral statement emphasised to the global reach of the issue, referring by way of example to the military commissions established by the United States of America at Guantánamo Bay, as well as recent negative developments in Colombia, Egypt, Thailand and Pakistan.

The statement noted that the Principles Governing the Administration of Justice Through Military Tribunals presented to the Commission on Human Rights by Emmanuel Decaux in 2006 (UN Doc E/CN.4/2006/58), are widely referenced, but have yet to receive full recognition by the Human Rights Council. The statement added its support to the calls by the Special Rapporteur on Independence of Judges and Lawyers, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, and others, for the Council to endorse and seek implementation of the Principles without further delay.

The statement responds to an expert consultation on the administration of justice through military tribunals convened by the Council (UN Doc A/HRC/28/32).

The full oral statement can be downloaded in pdf format here: Advocacy-HRC28-MilitaryCourts-OralStatement-2015

Said Benarbia, Director of ICJ’s Middle East North Africa Programme participated in the expert consultation.

His statement can be found here: MENA-Military Courts HRC28-Advocacy-2015-ENG (full text in PDF).

Thailand exercised its right of reply, which can be viewed in the UN webcast archive, here.

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