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IHC Stays Execution of Ex-Navy Officers, Citing Lack of Due Process in Court Martial Proceedings

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has granted a stay of execution for five ex-Navy officers who were sentenced to death through a general court-martial decree. The decision was made during a hearing on Monday, where Justice Babar Sattar issued a written order in response to the officers’ request for legal assistance during the court martial process.

The officers’ lawyers argued that crucial documents, such as the abstract of evidence and court of inquiry, were not shared with them, preventing them from properly defending their clients. They also mentioned that an appeal against the death sentence had been dismissed without providing reasons for upholding the sentence.

On the other hand, Assistant Attorney General Akeel Akhtar Raja stated that Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Naveed Ashraf had the authority to withhold information under rule 193 of the Pakistan Navy Rules, 1961 if it was deemed prejudicial to the state’s interests.

The court order emphasized the importance of balancing the state’s interests in secrecy with an individual’s right to due process and the protection of their life. It directed the respondents to submit the naval chief’s opinion within three weeks to justify why sharing the proceedings would be detrimental to the state’s interests.

In light of these arguments, the IHC ruled that the petitioners should not be executed until the petition is disposed of, ensuring that their right to due process and protection of life are upheld. The decision highlights the significance of transparency and fair treatment in legal proceedings, especially in cases involving the ultimate punishment of death.

The IHC’s decision has also raised questions about the secrecy surrounding military courts and the extent to which they are accountable to civilian authorities. “The military courts are supposed to be a temporary measure, but they have become a permanent fixture in our legal system,” said a lawyer who has been following the case. “It’s time for us to rethink how we approach these issues and ensure that our laws are transparent and fair.”

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