Editorial : Release of suspects - Friday 25th March 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/25/release-of-suspects.html

THE law must take its due course. As this paper has pointed out repeatedly, we do not agree with the concept of summary `justice`, in which innocent persons can be sentenced to death without getting a fair hearing. It is important here to retain the distinction between speedy and summary justice. That said, it is also vital to note that an overwhelming majority of detainees who have been arrested of late for their ostensible militant activities continue to be released by the country`s anti-terrorism courts for want of evidence. The case against most of them appears to be clear-cut on a circumstantial level but they are set free, to terrorise society all over again, simply because of the shoddy prosecution that is the bane of our legal system. Take the case of the people picked up for their alleged involvement in a number of terrorist attacks in the country, for instance the assault on the Parade Lane mosque in Rawalpindi. Then there are the routine killings in Karachi. How many of the perpetrators of those crimes have been prosecuted?
This criminal negligence must stop for a number of reasons. First and foremost, dangerous criminals bent on murder and mayhem cannot be allowed to operate freely after they are caught. Two, it does no good to overall morale when law-enforcement personnel who put their lives on the line when arresting militants see them released because the state`s lackadaisical prosecutors cannot convincingly press a case in a court of law. Witnesses often do not come forth, even in the case of crimes that are brazen, because they have no confidence in the guarantees offered by the state. Why would anybody expose themselves and their families to the threat of deadly retaliation when witness protection is merely a concept, not a fact? The battle against terrorism cannot be won in this way. Adequate security must be provided to the witnesses who appear in anti-terrorism courts and the judges who preside over the proceedings, and the prosecution needs to do its homework before resorting to legal action. Otherwise, insurgents and terrorists will continue to go scot-free.

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