Crime & Justice

Pakistan court overturns nearly 200 sentences issued by military tribunals

Islamabad, Jun 16 (efe-epa).- A Pakistani court on Tuesday overturned 196 sentences issued by the controversial military courts established after the Taliban killed 125 students in an attack on a school in the northwestern city of Peshawar in December 2014.

“The Peshawar High Court set aside 196 convictions of military courts and set free the convicted,” Additional Attorney General Qazi Babar Irshad, the public prosecutor in the cases, told EFE.

Babar could not specify how many of these verdicts involved death penalties and did not explain the reasons given by the court for revoking the punishments.

“We will approach the Supreme Court against this decision,” he said, adding that in his opinion, high courts did not have jurisdiction over military laws.

Pakistan had approved the creation of special military tribunals in early 2015 to hear terrorism cases for a period of two years, after the deadly Taliban attack on a military school in Peshawar – capital of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province – had killed 125 children and several employees.

A day after the Peshawar school attack, then prime minister Nawaz Sharif lifted the moratorium on the death penalty in terrorism-related cases and extended it to other crimes in March 2015.

The parliament had extended the validity of the military courts for two more years in March 2017 – a couple of months after it expired – for terrorism cases.

The courts were closed after the constitutional amendment that had established them finally expired in January 2019.

During their four-year tenure, the military tribunals issued 546 sentences, including 310 death penalties, leading to at least 56 executions.

Only two people have been acquitted in the military trials, which were held behind closed doors without access to the press and in which the military simply announced the verdicts, sometimes on social media.

The courts have been harshly criticized by both Pakistani and international human rights groups.

The International Commission of Jurists had alleged that trials of civilians in military courts were not compatible with the Constitution of Pakistan and the country’s obligations to international human rights law. EFE-EPA

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