Judicial moot says enforced disappearances are a crime

Updated May 06, 2018


Chief Justice Saqib Nisar addressing the concluding session of the eighth Judicial Conference on Saturday.—APP
Chief Justice Saqib Nisar addressing the concluding session of the eighth Judicial Conference on Saturday.—APP

ISLAMABAD: The declarations passed at the eighth annual Judicial Conference on Saturday centred on themes pertaining to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), as well as enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings, with jurists and legal experts stressing that custodial killings are a crime and those guilty of committing it should be prosecuted as criminals.

The declaration highlighted the need to enforce the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), and added that terror suspects as well as terrorist organisations must be declared proscribed without delay. Such organisations must not be allowed to hold meetings or propagate their views or contest elections. Those claiming to be members of these proscribed organisations would be prosecuted in accordance with the ATA, it added.

Recommends those guilty of committing this offence as well as extrajudicial killings should be prosecuted as criminals

The declaration also called for a counter-terrorism narrative to fight extremist ideology. The narrative must be developed and widely disseminated, it emphasised, adding that suspects who were on trial for committing an act of terror or had been convicted would have to be weaned off from extremist ideology. Similarly, media platforms that broadcast or propagated the views of terrorist organisations would also have to be prosecuted in accordance with the law, the declaration said.

Speaking at the concluding ceremony of the conference organised by the Law and Justice Commission of Pakistan, Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar constituted a committee to oversee the implementation of the recommendations discussed at the conference over the next four months. Justice Asif Saeed Khosa will head the committee comprising judges, jurists and experts from various professional fields.

“We will never disappoint the masses by violating our oath,” the chief justice said, adding that they were custodians of fundamental rights of the people, and were thus duty-bound to secure such rights at all cost.

Whenever fundamental rights like health and education were violated by the executive or the legislature, the courts had powers of judicial review to intervene, he explained. “If fundamental rights are violated, we as judges are left with no choice but not to interfere,” he stressed.

Earlier, senior judges of the Supreme Court — Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Gulzar Ahmed, Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed and Justice Qazi Faez Isa — presented declarations adopted by each of the thematic groups they had presided over separately.

Referring to regional, economic integration and an effective dispute resolution mechanism in the context of CPEC, the declaration suggested developing multimodal transport law and infrastructure to increase the significance of Pakistan’s position as a transit state for trade between Central Asian Republics, specifically, modernisation of the law on carriage of goods by sea. It also asked for the creation of a multilateral investment guarantee agency at a regional level, similar to the one established under the World Bank (MIGA). The declaration discussed the establishment of a multi-tier Regional Arbitration Centre, aimed at resolving disputes that may arise.

It also called for amendment of Article 8 of the agreement between China and Pakistan in order to avoid of double taxation and prevent fiscal evasion with respect to income tax on. The idea is to make the distribution of tax revenue between both countries more equitable, and to explicitly allocate fiscal rights of both signatories to the agreement.

It also called for higher environmental standards on all CPEC projects based on a harmonised set of policies between the two countries. It called for cooperation and exchange of skill between all provincial environmental protection agencies.

According to the declaration, the criminal justice system should operate to engender confidence in those investing in the economy and safeguarding their life and property. It called for properly trained law enforcement and prosecution agencies to gather evidence scientifically, using DNA testing, fingerprints and forensic techniques to solve crimes.

It called for a specialised police which would be held accountable and should have operational autonomy and functional specialisation in investigation.

Likewise, priority should be given to criminal trials. Once trial commences, it must proceed without being adjourned, the declaration suggested. In terror cases where witnesses may be vulnerable, mechanisms should be developed to ensure witness protection, while all evidence must be recorded promptly. Regarding delays in disposal of cases, the declaration said a three-tier system should be introduced – trial, appeal and constitutional stages – where purely legal issues should be adjudicated.

Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2018