Thursday, March 23, 2017

Cameroon's misuse of military court

Cameroon is trying an Anglophone barrister in a military court that will meet in secret, according to this account. Excerpt:
Barrister Agbor-Balla was arrested on 17 January 2017 and held incommunicado as a result of his involvement in protests and strikes by anglophone lawyers and teachers in West Cameroon against what they perceive as the marginalisation of the anglophone minority. The barrister was charged with a number of offences, including incitement to secession, civil war and revolution, and 'Hostilities against the Fatherland' - some of which carry the death penalty on conviction. On the same day, the Cameroon Anglophone Civil Society Consortium over which Barrister Agbor-Balla presided was outlawed. 
IBAHRI [International Bar Association Human Rights Institute] Co-Chair Baroness Helena Kennedy QC reiterated: 'The arrest of Barrister Agbor-Balla by military authorities that now intend to prosecute, judge and sentence him is deeply troubling to the IBAHRI and the international community. That the military tribunal may be held in closed session is further cause for alarm. It is for these reasons that the IBAHRI is again compelled to intercede on Barrister Agbor-Balla's behalf, respectfully asking the Government of the Republic of Cameroon to abide by the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary and ensure that judicial proceedings are conducted fairly.' 
She added: 'We also draw the government's attention to the rights enshrined in the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, as well as the UN's Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, that have so far been denied to Barrister Agbor-Balla. These include his rights as an individual and a professional to personal liberty, free expression, association, protection from arbitrary arrest and the right to a fair trial.'

Guantanamo as a precedent

From yesterday's proceedings in the Senate of Pakistan:
PML-N’s Lt Gen (retd) Abdul Qayyum had a totally supportive view of the government's stance and said that there was no harm in setting up military courts for speedy trial of hardcore terrorists, as it happened in developed countries like the US in circumstances Pakistan was passing through.
The News International has this detailed account of what sounds like a remarkable day in Islamabad. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

By the numbers, in the Senate of Pakistan

[T]he government later claimed it was short of a couple of votes. Independent observers, however, dispute this claim. The Free and Fair Election Network’s parliamentary observers counted presence of 45 members at the onset of the proceedings and 46 by the end. In the 104-member upper house, at least 69 votes are required to pass an amendment in the Constitution.

From this report in The Express Tribune

Do you know your chain of command?

The decision in Director of Military Prosecutions v. Donohoe [2017] IECA 92 (per Edwards, J.) is now available here thanks to the Courts Service of Ireland. Among other issues -- all decided against Comdt. Nile Donohoe -- was whether he was fairly on notice of his military chain of command and hence could have registered an objection to the membership of the panel before which he was tried in a timely fashion. The entire decision is worth reading for its window on contemporary Irish military justice, including appellate and collateral review.

Perils of Pauline in Islamabad

Remember the constitutional amendment the Pakistani National Assembly passed by the required supermajority? Well, it was supposed to sail through the Senate today. Wrong! The Senate was unable to muster the necessary votes to approve it, and the matter will be brought up again next week. The Army Act amendment that goes along with the constitutional amendment was passed because it did not require a supermajority. Details here.
No decision could be reached on the 28th Amendment Bill 2017, which pertains to the revival of military courts for another two years, due to the absence of some members and non-seriousness of a few others. 
Only 67 members were present in the Senate, whereas for two-thirds majority to be achieved at least 69 members are needed. The voting on the 28th Amendment has subsequently been postponed to next Tuesday, March 28. 
The 28th Amendment has already been passed by the National Assembly, when 255 NA members voted in favour while only four voted against the bill on Tuesday. 
The bill recommends a two-year extension in the term of military courts. It also demands implementation of the law of evidence during the proceedings. 
The other points of the bill recommend that the suspect be brought in front of a court within 24 hours and be entitled to have a lawyer of their choice.
Presumably there will be frenzied politicking, pro and con, between now and March 28.