June 1, 2023
In a press release issued on May 31, the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) called on the relevant authorities to exercise extraordinary care and restraint in the military court trials of civilians accused of participating in the May 9 riots.
Condemning the attacks on private and public property, the Council insisted that protests should remain peaceful and no one should be allowed to take the law into their own hands.
Furthermore, the PBC reiterated its consistent view that civilians are not ordinarily tried under the Army Act 1952 but, in lieu of the circumstances surrounding the May 9 riots, urged the authorities to practice restraint and ensure that no innocent shall be persecuted.
Speaking to Voicepk.net, Chairman of the PBC Executive Committee Hassan Raza Pasha stated that the PBC’s stance is clear that civilians should not be tried in military courts.
“Civilians should only be tried in ordinary courts or the anti-terrorism courts (ATCs). If [the accused] is army personnel, then by all means they should be tried in military courts,” he said. “But civilians should not [be tried in military courts], and the PBC’s stance is clear on this.”
Regarding differing opinions on requiring a Constitutional amendment to try civilians under the Army Act 1952, Pasha stated that there is no such need.
“Although it is the persistent view of the PBC that [military court trials of civilians] should not happen in the first place, section 2(i)(d) of the Army Act 1952 permits the trial of civilians.”
On the right to appeal military court verdicts, he explained that the military courts have their own hierarchy and that the final authority to hear appeals lies with the Chief of Army Staff.
“However, if there are any procedural deficiencies, or constitutional or legal violations – like, for example, the charge sheet was not given or a defence lawyer was not provided – then the accused can file a petition in the high courts under Article 199.”