National Commission on Human Rights (NCHR) Chairman Justice (retd) Ali Nawaz Chowhan has desired that an observer from the commission should be allowed to review proceedings of the military courts, recently formed to try hardcore terrorists.
“This commission should be allowed to have an observer there at the military courts,” said Justice Chowhan, who has recently assumed office of the powerful commission.
Justice Chowhan stepped down as chief justice of Gambia after he developed differences with President Yahya Jammeh for acquitting former Gambian naval chief Sarjo Fofana in a treason case. He has also served as an international judge of the United Nations at The Hague.
In an exclusive interview with The Express Tribune, Justice Chowhan said the military courts were formed because of insurgency and for a shorter period by following the legal procedure and without any arbitrariness.
“The country is in a state of insurgency and it is everybody’s obligation to help the military,” he said.
To a question, he said the laws under which the commission is constituted empowered it to question every person and institution to ensure human rights in the country.
“Section XIII of Chapter IV of National Commission for Human Rights Act 2012 states that the commission has all the powers of a civil court trying a suit under the code of civil procedure, 1908.
“The commission also has the power to require any person to furnish information on such points or matters. It shall be deemed to be a civil court to the extent that is described in sections 175, 178, 179, 180 and 228 of Pakistan Penal Code, 1860,” he said.
Issue of missing persons
Justice Chowhan observed that the issue of missing persons could be solved through political means.
“Though I’m still studying this issue, my personal opinion is that all people held during insurgency either by intelligence agencies or the military should be reported. The agencies should detain a person only on the basis of solid evidence,” he said.
“Agencies should report the missing person’s case in the court of law,” he added.
Misuse of blasphemy law Justice Chowhan said the blasphemy law is not a stigma on the state’s face.
“Even the Christians [and other minorities] can also file a blasphemy case against Muslims. The point is that the law is being misused,” he said. The NCHR chief suggested that such sensitive cases should be investigated by the senior judges and police officers in order to stop this misuse.
“If the SHO is illiterate in Islamic laws and entertains FIRs [of blasphemy cases] under pressure—this act can put people into trouble,” he observed. “To streamline the investigation process into blasphemy related cases, we could go ahead with fair justice,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2015.