Thursday, March 5, 2015

Long wait for military trial in Guinea

The attorney for General Nouhou Thiam and other senior Guinean Army officers who have been in detention for over three years has urged that trial proceedings finally commence. The attorney complains that it is arbitrary to have kept them so long without bringing them to trial because the maximum punishment they likely face is only three or four months' imprisonment. Details (en français) here.

Roundtable discussion of Pakistan's new military courts: a "soft coup"?

The Express Tribune has this worthwhile summary of a roundtable discussion of issues arising from Pakistan's new military courts legislation. One speaker called the 21st Amendment a "soft coup." From the article:
[Former Lahore law professor Waqqas] Mir said the only way the establishment of military courts could now be challenged in a court was on grounds of the Basic Structure Doctrine. 
He said there was no precedent in the history of Pakistan’s Supreme Court where it had struck down anything that involved the military or national security concerns – including military coups. 
In response to Society of International Law Executive Director Ali Sultan’s proposal that one could accept establishment of military courts as a stop-gap measure, Mir said the military could justify permanent existence of these courts if it charged enough people with terrorism in two years to meet the criteria laid out in Article 264 of the Constitution. 
He said the Army Act provided for normal rules of evidence in trials conducted under its jurisdiction. But, he added, there was no way to ensure that they were actually applied in trials conducted by military courts. “If a convict feels that a court has not conducted the trail in accordance with the constitution, they have the right to appeal. There is no right to appeal against military courts,” he said. 
Earlier, Sultan had argued that establishment of military courts in the context of the ongoing conflict between Pakistan Army and the TTP [the Pakistani Taliban] could be justified under international law. 
He said TTP met the criteria laid out in the law on war between a state and a non-state actor. However, he said, military courts in Pakistan should only be a stop-gap arrangement. He also said there was a need for clarity in the language of the 21st Amendment. 
He said there was no reason why it could not be narrowed and non-state combatants be identified. 
He also opposed retroactive application of the 21st amendment. 
Abid Saqi, former Lahore High Court Bar Association president, said establishment of military courts violated the right of access to justice. He lamented that while earlier attempts at putting in place military courts were carried out through executive orders, this time a constitutional amendment had been used for it. “This amounts to a soft coup. The military has put itself in the driver’s seat with respect to the conflict against the TTP,” he said.
Speaking of the 21st Amendment, the government was supposed to submit its brief early this week, having disregarded the Supreme Court of Pakistan's initial briefing order. There's been nothing in the media about such a filing having been made. Friends in Pakistan: was something filed? Nor has there been any word on whether the Chief Justice will refer the 18th and 21st Amendment Constitutional Petitions to an expanded bench.

Malvinas/Falklands war vets to take abuse claims to Inter-American Commission

War veterans from the Malvinas/Falklands war (Centro de Ex Combatientes Islas Malvinas - CECIM) of Argentina have announced that they plan to take their case to an international court.  The veterans claim to be victims of abuse and torture by their superior officers during the 1982 conflict and will bring the matter to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.  The Argentine Supreme Court dismissed the case in its February 19, 2015 ruling and President Cristina Fernández, in her State of the Nation address to Congress, recommended war veterans take the matter to the Inter-American Commission.  CECIM revealed that the case would be filed as soon as possible with the Commission even though they have a six-month time frame within which to file starting from the date of notification of the Supreme Court's dismissal.

Public interest disclosure by civilian oversight body trumped by Canadian military authorities' penchant for secrecy

Provost Marshal testifying
at MPCC Public Interest Hearing
Ottawa, Canada. March 15, 2015. On the eve of the release of the Final Report by the Military Police Complaints Commission [MPCC], Press Release the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal (Chief of Police) adopted a policy presenting the Commission to append its submission (titled Notice of Action) to the Final Report. In response, the MPCC filed an Application for Judicial Review before the Federal Court of Canada seeking a declaration to the effect that the Provost Marshal has no jurisdiction to prohibit the publication of its Notice of Action as part of the MPCC Final Report.

The unexpected and unprecedented Provost Marshal's policy NOT to allow public disclosure of its Notice of Action has been the subject of a strong public rebuke in the Canadian media. Article in Canada's national Newspaper: The Ottawa Citizen

The MPCC is a body created in 1999 by Part IV of the National Defence Act. It is tasked with providing independent civilian oversight with respect to conduct and interference complaints filed  against the Military Police.

In the case at hand, the MPCC has been investigating no less than  32 conduct complaints filed by Mr and Mrs Fynes, the parents of the late Corporal Stuart Langridge (a veteran of the Bosnia and Afghanistan missions) who committed suicide on March 15, 2008 while serving with Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) [LDSH (RC)] Regiment in Edmonton, Alberta. The complaints were filed by the Fyneses in January 2011.

The MPCC public interest hearing took place in 2012 and 2013, consisting of 60 days of hearings and hearing 90 witnesses. As required by law, an MPCC Interim Report was issued last May.  Also as required by law, the Provost Marshal gave notice to the MPCC of any action taken or that will be taken with respect to the the complaints. Upon receipt of the Notice of Action late last Fall, the MPCC prepared its Final Report setting out its findings and recommendations.

Publication of the Final Report, including the Notice of Action, ensures that the parties and the public are aware whether the Provost Marshal accepts the MPCC's findings and recommendations and what actions, if any, the Provost Marshal proposes to take to implement the recommendations.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

New military courts for Guinea

Guinea is upgrading its military justice system with new courts around the country. As reported here, these courts will have jurisdiction not only over active duty military and paramilitary personnel, but also over military retirees.