Saturday, December 20, 2014

Human Rights Watch urges military justice reform in Bolivia

On December 15, Human Rights Watch wrote to Bolivian President Evo Morales recommending action on a range of issues. Here is what HRW had to say about Military Criminal Code reform:
In December 2012, the Constitutional Court ruled that Bolivia’s Military Criminal Code was incompatible with international human rights standards regarding judicial independence and the right to judicial protection, and urged legislators to reform it. At the time of writing, however, the code has not been modified.
Under the Military Criminal Code, “all the crimes committed by members of the Armed Forces in the line of duty, either inside or outside the headquarters, military camps and zones” are to be prosecuted and tried by the military justice system. This includes alleged human rights violations committed by members of the military.
Under international norms, allegations of human rights abuses should not be tried by military courts. The Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons specifically states that, “[p]ersons alleged to be responsible for the acts constituting the offense of forced disappearance of persons may be tried only in the competent jurisdictions of ordinary law in each state, to the exclusion of all other special jurisdictions, particularly military jurisdictions.”
Similarly, treaty monitoring bodies have repeatedly stated that military courts are not suitable to prosecute and bring perpetrators of abuse to justice. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, for example, has held that “when the State permits investigations to be conducted by the entities with possible involvement, independence and impartiality are clearly compromised.” And the Inter-American Court on Human Rights has repeatedly ruled that pursuant to article 8 of the American Convention “military criminal jurisdiction is not the competent jurisdiction to investigate and, if applicable, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of human rights violations.” For its part, the UN Human Rights Committee, which monitors implementation of the states’ obligations under the ICCPR, has called on states parties to subject military personnel alleged to have committed human rights violations to civilian jurisdiction. [Footnotes omitted.]

Reporters Without Borders concerned about Cameroon military courts

Reporters Without Borders has urged the president of Cameroon not to approve pending anti-terrorism legislation. Among the points made:
"The decision to give military courts exclusive jurisdiction is also worrying because the use of military courts to try civilians should be the exception, not the rule. Furthermore, the defence minister has the power to appoint and assign military judges, which raises questions about their independence vis-à-vis the government."

Nigerian senior attorney critical of closed mutiny trial

Sebastian Hon, SAN
A senior Nigerian attorney has faulted the latest capital court-martial because it was conducted in secret. According to this account:
[Sebastian] Hon said the trial, conviction and sentence were a nullity because they were done in secrecy. According to him, the trial and conviction should be assumed not to have taken place.
He said: “The recent secret trial and eventual conviction and sentence to death of soldiers by a military tribunal is unconstitutional, null and void.  The reason is plain enough: section 36(3) of the 1999 Constitution mandatorily requires all criminal trials to be conducted in public and not in secret.
“The secret trial of these suspects, therefore, amounts to a gross violation of this mandatory constitutional provision”, Hon added.
He explained that Section 36(3) of the constitution was under Chapter IV of the said constitution, which guaranteed certain inalienable rights termed fundamental rights.
He pointed out that superior courts of record in Nigeria, including the Supreme Court, had held that these rights were above the ordinary laws of the land, in this case, including military laws and rules.
He cited the cases of  Ransome-Kuti vs. Attorney-General of the Federation (1985) 2 NWLR (Pt. 6) 211 SC; WAEC vs. Adeyanju (2008) 9 NWLR (Pt. 1092) 270 at 304 SC and Essien vs. Inyang (2012) All FWLR (Pt. 628) 951 at 967 CA, etc.
“More importantly, the Supreme Court in the fairly recent case of Nigerian Army vs. Aminu-Kano (2010) All FWLR (Pt. 528) 1805 at 1832 SC held in emphatic terms that the fundamental rights provisions of the Constitution apply to all Nigerians.

Human Rights Watch response to Pakistani reaction to Peshawar school killings

Human Rights Watch has issued a statement criticizing Pakistan's planned response to the brutal attack on a school in Peshawar. Excerpt:
A December 19 media story said that the government is considering the use of military courts to ensure the “speedy trial of terrorists.”
As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Pakistan is obligated to uphold and take measures to ensure basic fair trial rights. Governments are prohibited from using military courts to try civilians when the regular courts are functioning. The Human Rights Committee, the international expert body that monitors state compliance with the ICCPR, has stated in its General Comment [No. 32] on the right to a fair trial that “the trial of civilians in military or special courts may raise serious problems as far as the equitable, impartial, and independent administration of justice is concerned.”
“Misusing military courts, a resumption of executions, and denying media access to conflict areas is a recipe for renewed human rights violations rather than a rights-respecting response to militant atrocities,” [HRW's Phelim] Kine said. “The Pakistan government should respect the memory of the Peshawar massacre victims by upholding the rule of law for which the attackers showed such contempt.”

SEDENA lets contract for recording Mexican military court trials

The Mexican military has let a contract for audio and video recording of military court proceedings. According to a vendor press release:
VIQ reseller Dyntra, S.A. de C.V. ("Dyntra") has been awarded a contract for digital audio and video capture and management by the Mexico Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional ("SEDENA") military courts in Tijuana and Villahermosa, Mexico.
Under the terms of the contract, VIQ will supply SEDENA with digital audio and video recording software and hardware for military courtrooms in Tijuana and Villahermosa. VIQ's customizable software interface allows SEDENA to run the software in their native Spanish and uses a VIQ Central Server for centralized storage of audio, video and notes from multiple courtrooms.
The initial installations are part of the overall modernization of federal criminal justice centers across Mexico. SEDENA is locally supported by Mexico-based VIQ reseller Dyntra, a leader in sophisticated audio and video capture with a special focus on the courts and police markets. Dyntra anticipates up to 19 total courthouses will be involved in this modernization project, with the further expectation of adding VIQ's NetScribe and AccessPOINT web-based applications.
"SEDENA and the Mexican military courts are part of VIQ's initiative to tackle complementary market verticals and emerging geographic regions," says Sebastien Pare, President of VIQ Solutions. "Recent federal legislation has made Mexico's digital audio and video court recording standards among the most progressive in the world. With a sophisticated local partner like Dyntra, we are able to further expand into Mexico, a key target region for VIQ, and actively market and sell VIQ's robust digital recording solutions to the courts and across new market sectors."
VIQ Solutions is based on Ontario.