The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), an international human rights watchdog with eminent jurists and legal experts as its members from all over the world, has slammed Pakistan for failing to meet its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which the country ratified in 2010.
According to the ICJ, this is the first time that the UN Human Rights Committee, an independent body of experts that is mandated to monitor ICCPR’s implementation, has reviewed Pakistan’s human rights track record since it became signatory in 2010. The review was done on July 11-12 and its recommendations were released yesterday.
Though the recommendations don’t make a direct reference to Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian national who has been given death sentence by one of Pakistan’s military courts, it can be said that the issue was on the discussion table while carrying out a review of human rights in Pakistan.
Pakistan’s military courts have been decried by every global human rights body and they gained further global infamy with the ongoing hearing in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case in the International Court of Justice. India has appealed against Pakistan in the International Court of Justice which has stayed Jadhav’s hanging till its final decision.
Jadhav was abducted by Taliban from Iran’s border areas while on a business trip and was reportedly sold to Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. The government of Pakistan and its army made him, a retired Indian Navy officer, a part of their anti-India propaganda by declaring him a spy, tried him in secrecy in Pakistan’s military courts, denying every Indian request for consular access to him, and passed a judgment to hang him.
Among the recommendations made, there are specific strictures asking Pakistan to reform its military courts, “and bring them into full conformity with Articles 14 and 15 of the Covenant to ensure a fair trial”. Articles 14 and 15 of the ICCPR deal with ensuring transparency in legal proceeding in criminal matters which among other guidelines, require the state to provide the accused counsel of his own choosing and forbids the state from taking his forced confession.
The ICCPR does provide a provision for a private hearing but it specifically says that “any judgement rendered in a criminal case or in a suit at law shall be made public except where the interest of juvenile persons otherwise requires or the proceedings concern matrimonial disputes or the guardianship of children.”
UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE ASKS PAKISTAN TO REFORM MILITARY COURTS
The UN Human Rights Committee has asked Pakistan to reform its military courts as per the provisions of the Articles 14 and 15 of the ICCPR. It is necessary for every signatory of the ICCPR to implement the treaty and submit an implementation report on every provision. Though Pakistan had submitted its report in 2015, the review was carried out this month only, listing all the prevailing concerns regarding human rights’ violations in Pakistan with inputs from other sources.
The UN committee’s recommendations also ask Pakistan to “review legislation relating to the military courts with a view to abrogating their jurisdiction over civilians as well as their authority to impose the death penalty.” Kulbhushan Jadhav has been given death sentence under Section 59 of the Pakistan Army Act which is defined as “the Section for Civil Offences” and gives Pakistan’s military courts power to award capital punishments in the garb of national security.
The ICJ release, quoting Livio Zilli, its Senior Legal Adviser and UN Representative, says, “It is deeply worrying that since ratifying the ICCPR, Pakistan’s human rights situation has worsened in a number of aspects, including with the restoration of the death penalty and the introduction of military trials for civilians.”
PAKISTAN’S MILITARY COURTS
Pakistan had established military courts in 2015 with a constitutional amendment to try people for terrorism and related offences committed in civilian areas after the December 2015 Peshawar school massacre and in March 2017 its parliament voted for another two years extension to them.
Since their establishment, the military courts have an absolute record of convictions with no acquittals. According to the Pakistan’s military, the military courts have convicted 274 people in last two years, 161 of them being sentenced to death and 113 to varying prison terms.
KULBHUSHAN JADHAV’S CASE
On April 10, the Pakistan Army chief confirmed Kulbhushan Jadhav’s death sentence given by a Pakistani military court that held Jadhav guilty of espionage. Pakistan claims Jadhav, who allegedly used the alias Hussein Mubarak Patel in Pakistan, was attached to the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). Pakistan made Jadhav’s arrest public in March 2016.
India has maintained that Jadhav is innocent and there is no evidence against him and that Pakistsan carried out a sham, secret trial in a military court where no information on charges and evidence was given. India has warned Pakistan of ‘dire consequences’ equalling Jadhav’s death sentence with pre-meditated murder.