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Pak's "dysfunctional criminal justice system" threat to international security: ICG

December 7, 2010 - Islamabad

Pakistan's dysfunctional criminal justice system poses serious risks for domestic, regional and international security, and therefore the federal and provincial governments must make its reform a top priority, the International Crisis Group, an independent and non-profit organisation committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict, has said.

ICG's latest report- "Reforming Pakistan's Criminal Justice System"- examines Pakistan's criminal justice sector and urges the government to take immediate action for reform.

In a press release, the non-governmental organisation pointed out that investigators in Pakistan "are poorly trained, prosecutors fail to build strong cases that stand up in court, and there is a lack of access to basic data and modern tools. Moreover, corruption, intimidation and external interference, including by the military's intelligence agencies, compromise cases before they even come to court. As a result, domestic stability is undermined, and the public's confidence in the law is weakened."

"Pakistan's police, and indeed the whole criminal justice system, still largely functions on the imperative of maintaining public order rather than tackling 21st century crime", said Samina Ahmed, Crisis Group's South Asia Project Director.

"Given the absence of scientific evidence collection methods and credible witness protection programs, police and prosecutors rely mostly on confessions by the accused, which are inadmissible in court. Militants and other major criminals are regularly released on bail, or their trials persist for years even as they plan operations from prison. Even terrorism cases produce few convictions," said the ICG press release.

It noted that criminal justice could not be isolated from the broader challenges of the democratic transition, and that the "repeated suspension of the constitution by military regimes, followed by extensive reforms to centralise power and to strengthen their civilian allies, notably the religious right, have undermined constitutionalism and the rule of law."

"Pakistan's federal government and provincial governments must revoke discriminatory laws, amend the Criminal Procedure Code to establish a robust witness protection program, recast the Anti-Terrorism Act and repeal parallel court systems," it said.

"The police's investigative capacity must be strengthened, external interference in investigations prevented and a comprehensive review conducted to assess gaps in personnel, raining and resource needs. Policymakers and judges should not give in to populist quick fixes that only limit the justice system's capacity to enforce the law," it added.


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