Monday, February 27, 2017

A gutsy admission in Pakistan

Mosharraf Zaidi has written a gutsy op-ed for The News International admitting that he was wrong to support Pakistan's 21st Amendment. Excerpt:
. . . The case for these courts doesn’t stand up to any kind of scrutiny from a rule of law, transparency or due process perspective. I knew all this on December 27, 2014 and yet I still expressed public endorsement of these courts. I owe my readers an apology for this. It was bad judgement. I am sorry. 
Why am I sorry? I can easily conceive of morally defensible arguments to run roughshod over due process to achieve an urgent outcome. I have a strong enough constitution to be able to grapple with moral ambiguity or even contradiction. Public policy is complicated business, and it is most complicated in a place like Pakistan, at a time like the post-APS scenario. So my mea culpa is not inspired by the procedural, rights-based, moral or ethical arguments against military courts. 
I made a mistake in supporting military courts in 2014 because the existence of military courts creates the space and time for the executive, the legislative and the judicial branches to delay the necessary legal and administrative reforms our country desperately needs. 
I made a mistake in supporting military courts in 2014 because the existence of military courts empowers the military in a civilian domain, and we can’t keep whining about the civ-mil disequilibrium on our Twitter timeline, while handing the military more powers on our Facebook pages. That’s called mixed signals. It is bad form. 
I made a mistake in supporting military courts in 2014 because the existence of military courts is an easy and convenient way for our civilian system – administrative and legal – to escape scrutiny and responsibility for its epic failure to provide timely justice to society in general and to the victims of terror in particular. 
One should learn from their mistakes. The proposal to extend or re-initiate military courts in Pakistan as an instrument of countering terrorism, or countering violent extremism, or improving the quantum of justice is a bad idea. It does none of the things it is supposed to do. It only delays an inevitable conversation about reform. It is an escape hatch through which this country’s elected and unelected, military and civilian, in-power and in-opposition leaderships seek to escape serious and difficult processes of reform. 
We must not make the same mistakes that we have made before. I apologise for supporting military courts in 2014, and I oppose their establishment in 2017. I hope both civilian and military leaders will examine the mistakes they have made in 2014 and thereafter, and seek to avoid the same mistakes in 2017.

Should Brazil's Military Police be disbanded?

Luis Felipe Moraes asks here whether the time has come to abolish Brazil's Military Police. Excerpt:
Currently, the Brazilian police is divided into two groups: the Civil and the Military, with the former holding the same rights and duties as the rest of the general public once it is a civil institution, and the latter following a specific pattern of rules once it is linked to the Armed Forces. 
The problem is that the Armed Forces are trained for war, that is, for killing. Unless the police is at war with its own people, it is not necessary for the agents to be inserted inside a rigid hierarchy, being subject to violent training, ill-treatment, and unreasonable punishment, as typical within the army; in accordance to the Military Justice, military soldiers can go to jail for merely being late, and are also not allowed to go on strike and fight for their rights — which is why it is not the own police who is blocking the corporation buildings, but their family members. 
The lack of rights and the violent training explains why Brazilian military police is the one which most kills and is most murdered in the world — according to a survey revealed by the 2016 edition of the Brazilian Yearbook of Public Security, 9 people were killed due to police intervention everyday in that year in the country; this means that in six days, the Brazilian police killed the same amount the British police has killed in 25 years
In fact, demilitarization means abolishing the warfare mode within which the police force operates, which stems from the Armed Forces and its hierarchical action; it means ceasing the training of security agents based on the idea of a war against an enemy.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Okinawa NCIS sting

Japan Times reports on cases brought as a result of an NCIS sting program on Okinawa. Excerpt:
Since 2015, at least 36 U.S. service members on Okinawa have been arrested in child sex stings operated by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. 
Those detained have belonged to all branches of the military — with marines in the majority — and their ranks have ranged from private to lieutenant colonel. Typically they have received sentences of between two and three years in military prison, and upon their release they will be required to register as sex offenders in the United States.

Leniency questioned in New Zealand

Stuff reporter Kirsty Lawrence has reviewed outcomes in years' worth of New Zealand military cases and concludes here that the country's military defendants get off light. She writes:
Nearly two dozen military personnel have faced charges of indecent assault and rape in the past two decades, newly released documents reveal. 
And while the majority of them were eventually found guilty, hardly any saw the inside of a prison cell, and none of their crimes ended up on their civilian criminal records.
*   *   *
Since 1991, there have been 144 court martials [ouch] held in New Zealand. 
Information released under the Official Information Act showed that of those, 22 had charges that could be transferred to a civilian court. 
These included indecent assault, common assault and unlawful sexual connection, among a variety of other charges. 
Punishments and findings varied, with one indecent assault charge in 1996 finding the offender not guilty as they were "sleep-walking" at the time of the incident.
Many sentences were also quashed on appeal. Reduction in rank appeared to be the most common punishment.
The handful of comments are worth reading.
The author of this story is naive and has cherry-picked a few specific cases to try and paint the picture of an issue where there isn't one. The NZDF justice system can be absolutely brutal in punishing the most mundane of offences, many based on historical traditions more than any real world equivalent. Most of these offences are specific to the NZDF and would make the average person laugh due to the ridiculousness and wastefulness of it all.The author of this story is naive and has cherry-picked a few specific cases to try and paint the picture of an issue where there isn't one. The NZDF justice system can be absolutely brutal in punishing the most mundane of offences, many based on historical traditions more than any real world equivalent. Most of these offences are specific to the NZDF and would make the average person laugh due to the ridiculousness and wastefulness of it all.The author of this story is naive and has cherry-picked a few specific cases to try and paint the picture of an issue where there isn't one. The NZDF justice system can be absolutely brutal in punishing the most mundane of offences, many based on historical traditions more than any real world equivalent. Most of these offences are specific to the NZDF and would make the average person laugh due to the ridiculousness and wastefulness of it all.

Pakistan's political quandary

Global Military Justice Reform has been attempting to follow the back and forth in Pakistan over whether to revive the country's military courts' power to try civilians. That there is posturing and horse-trading going on among the parties is clear, and that's in the nature of politics. Whether the competing demands can be reconciled will be known, maybe, in the coming week. Will the 21st Amendment be revived? If so, for another two years, for three years, for a split-the-difference year-and-a-half? Will the former limitation to persons who act in the name of religion or sect be in a new measure, offensive as that must be to the religious parties? How will the measure affect Baluchistan or FATA?

But there's a more basic issue, and it starts with the notion that there is a class of suspects who are referred to as "jet-black terrorists." The authorities use this phrase as if doing so in itself justifies the use of military courts. But just what is the difference between a "jet-black terrorist" and any other terrorist? The number of victims? Their modus operandi? Or is the term simply there to scare the listener into shutting down his or her thought process and get in step? It does seem to be the latter, and the lack of pushback to it is cause for concern. The term corrupts the discourse.

It has been nearly two months since the 21st Amendment expired. (Indeed, Pakistan's political class knew as early as January 7, 2015 that it would be expiring in two years.) In those two months there has been a great deal of churning and burning, with countless meetings, briefings (although the public has no idea what was said in them), posturing, boycotts, and irreconcilable claims that there either was an impasse or stalemate or that basic agreement had been reached in the interest of national unity and security. In short, a lot of energy -- and some hot air -- has been expended.

That show of activity has been single-mindedly focused on the revival issue . . . and not the more fundamental problem that there would be no need for 21st Amendment courts if the regular court system were functioning -- even as to "jet-black" defendants. If a quarter of the energy that has been expended on revival negotiations had been spent on that continuing problem, it would have been solved long ago. Yet no effort at all seems to have been made in this direction. If half a dozen party leaders and two or three legislative drafters had been locked in a room for a day and given a laptop, a bill could easily have been generated. It could have been quickly rammed through the Parliament as regular legislation; after all, the 21st Amendment itself was rammed through even though it required supermajorities. Why hasn't this happened?