The ICJ and the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) have expressed deep concern that following the 21st amendment, juveniles suspected of committing offences related to terrorism could end up being tried by the newly constituted military courts.
In a letter sent to the prime minister and the interior minister on Thursday, HRCP and the ICJ said: “The 21st constitutional amendment and the corresponding amendments to the Army Act, 1952, give military courts jurisdiction to try all persons, including civilians, alleged to have committed certain offences related to terrorism. The amendments provide that the government may transfer a case related to the enumerated offences under the Army Act from any court (which prima facie includes juvenile courts) to a military tribunal for trial. The amended law also stipulates that in case of inconsistency with other laws, provisions of the Army Act would prevail. The amendments do not expressly exclude juveniles from their ambit.”
HRCP and ICJ said that these provisions have created the possibility that the requirement under the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO), 2002, whereby juvenile courts shall have exclusive jurisdiction to try individuals below 18 years of age, could be overridden in certain terrorism-related cases.
“In the circumstances, it is important that the government clarifies and ensures that in implementing the law, individuals who were under the age of 18 at the time of the alleged crime may not be tried in military courts, not least because a trial before such a court would violate Pakistan’s obligations under international law,” they added.
Sam Zarifi, ICJ Asia Pacific Regional Director (Bangkok), t: +66 807819002; e: sam.zarifi(a)icj.org
Pakistan-Letter military courts and juveniles-Advocacy-2015-ENG (full letter in PDF)NewsWeb stories