Pakistan’s highest court of justice has upheld death sentences in the cases of 16 civilians convicted of terrorism-related offenses.
The Supreme Court ruled in Islamabad on Monday that the verdicts issued by military courts for the appellants were all correct and based upon proper judicial procedure and the defendants’ constitutional rights.
Sajid Ilyas Bhatti, the deputy attorney general representing the government, assured that the military courts’ proceedings were “immune from challenge on the ground of any alleged violation of the fundamental rights.”
The lawyers of the 16 defendants had contended that their clients had been tried in secret, without access to legal counsel of their choice, and that their confessions had been recorded illegally.
The defendants’ lawyers also claimed that their clients were denied access to military court records when preparing their appeals.
This is the first time that the legality of the cases tried by the military courts has been approved by the high civilian Supreme Court.
Human rights activists have argued that the rulings passed by the military courts were in violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights and failed to follow legal procedure.
So far, the military courts have convicted 104 civilians in secret tribunals due to the sensitivity of the matter.
The courts were set up in January 2015 to try civilian terrorism suspects following an attack by militants on a school in Peshawar that killed more than 130 pupils.
Militants had intimidated regular civilian courts, forcing the government to give permission to the military to set up a tribunal to try terrorism suspects.
Of the 104 convicted, 100 have been sentenced to death, and four to life imprisonment.
The military courts say all but six of those tried for terrorism-related crimes in their tribunals have confessed to their crimes.
File photo of militants in Pakistan
Those 16 convicts whose appeals were dismissed on Monday included nine members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and two al-Qaeda members, according to Pakistan’s military. Two of those convicts are said to have been involved in the Peshawar school killings.
Pakistan has been battling the TTP Takfiri militant group since 2007 which has claimed responsibility for a number of deadly attacks, including on Shia Muslims.