Missing persons: AG’s opinion sought over trial on enforced disappearances

Published: January 9, 2015
SC seeks word on trying serving military officers for enforced disappearances. PHOTO: AFP

SC seeks word on trying serving military officers for enforced disappearances. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has summoned Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt on January 12 to share his opinion on the legal questions pertaining to the trial of serving military officers over their alleged role in enforced disappearances.

The two-member bench of the apex court, headed by Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja, pointed out that the court had framed questions pertaining to the trial of the officers in missing persons cases.

“Now we need to get the answers of these questions,” Justice Jawwad told Deputy Attorney General Sajid Ilyas Bhatti. “We have to decide these questions as it is our duty to do so in view of the constitution”, said the bench taking up a plea of the head of the Voice for Baloch Missing Persons (VBMP) Nasrullah Baloch. The applicant is pursuing the missing persons’ case before the superior courts for several years now.

On May 15, Justice Khawaja while heading the bench had recommended that a larger bench should hear all the missing persons’ cases wherein military officers were allegedly involved.

The bench had made this recommendation to ensure uniform consideration over the questions relating to the trial.

The questions put forth are:

First, when a person is accused of commission of an offence under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and that person is serving in the Pakistan Army, is it the ordinary criminal (forums) courts, set up under the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C), which are to try him, or is it for the forums under the Pakistan Army Act to try such an accused?

Second, is it the ordinary criminal courts (in the present case, the courts in Malakand) that are obliged to accede to the request made by the army authorities, or is it within the discretion of the ordinary courts to determine whether or not to allow the request of army authorities to transfer the case to them?

Third, if it is for the ordinary forums to exercise discretion in the matter of a request received from the army authorities, what is the basis on which such a request should be considered, and then allowed or declined?

During the hearing on Wednesday, the bench had asked the Deputy Attorney General to submit his written on these questions. The DAG, however, said that AGP was busy in a meeting at Prime Minister’s House regarding the ongoing law and order situation.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th, 2015.

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