23 June 2020 –National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), in collaboration with UNODC and Sindh Judicial Academy (SJA) organized a virtual meeting for anti-terrorism judges from Sindh, Pakistan, on the United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism Executive Directorate (CTED) developed “South Asia Regional Toolkit for Judges: Supporting the Development of National Bench Books for the Effective Adjudication of Terrorism Cases”.
The regional toolkit was developed with the active support and engagement of judges from all South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries, including Pakistan as honourable former Chief Justice of Pakistan Mr. Asif Saeed Khosa, along with eight additional judges attended series-of-meetings and extended their support to this important regional initiative. The toolkit elaborates and builds on relevant Security Council resolutions and international instruments on counter-terrorism, as well as the Global Counter Terrorism Forum memoranda, notably The Hague Memorandum on good practices for the judiciary in adjudicating terrorism offences. It also provides practice-oriented guidance to judges and judicial training academies of SAARC countries on the foundations for effective adjudication, judicial management of proceedings and international cooperation in terrorism matters in the South-Asian region.
Recognizing that law enforcement and criminal justice agencies in Pakistan face unique challenges and evolving threats posed by terrorism and its financing, UNODC is working in close partnership with stakeholders in the country under “Pakistan’s Action to Counter Terrorism” (PACT) project, to deliver technical assistance to the police, prosecution and judiciary in the Province of Sindh to strengthen their collective response to preventing and countering terrorism. This project has been made possible with the financial support of the European Union (EU) under the Foreign Policy Instrument (FPI).
Under the framework of this project, one of the key activities includes customizing this toolkit in close consultation with the Sindh Judicial Academy for the anti-terrorism judges of Pakistan. The initial online consultative meeting was attended by over 28 anti-terrorism judges from Sindh, two United States District Court judges along with a magistrate from Australia who participated as subject-matter experts. They shared their experience and knowledge with participants on judicial management of the proceedings and alluded on the importance of physical evidence including forensic, electronic and financial along with their admissibility in parallel to the witness testimonies.
“Pakistan has come a long way in the last decade in its criminal justice system’s response to terrorism. Terrorism incidents have decreased across the country, through joint efforts at all levels. Effective adjudication of cases remains a challenge, but progress is being made there, too. The Pakistan-UNODC cooperation is producing results through targeted training and tools. One such tool is “The South Asia Regional Toolkit”, customized for Judges in Pakistan, which will serve as a reference guide tailored towards meeting the needs of Judges in the country”, said Masood Karimipour, Chief of Terrorism Prevention Branch, UNODC.
During the opening session, the Member NACTA, Mr. Asif Paracha, expressed appreciation for the technical assistance being delivered by UNODC under the framework of PACT and acknowledged the financial support of the European Union. The Acting Director General of Sindh Judicial Academy, Mr. Muhammad Mazhar welcomed the participants and highlighted upon the importance of customizing this toolkit which would support moving towards a harmonized approach during the adjudication of terrorism cases.
The EU Chargé d’Affaires a.i. Ms. Anne Marchal stressed upon the important role which judiciary plays in the criminal justice system especially in terrorism cases for upholding rule of law and human rights. Having worked in the South Asia region for over two decades she acknowledged the challenges judges encounter during the adjudication process and highlighted that the toolkit, gives us an opportunity to learn from the knowledge and experiences of our fellow colleagues from this region for incorporating good practices during the proceedings, she added.
Under the framework of PACT Sindh, UNODC is well-positioned to recognize the judiciary’s needs for specialized national tools, specifically designed to address their unique and emerging requirements, said Mr. Jeremy Milsom, UNODC Country Representative. This initiative would also complement Government of Pakistan and Sindh’s efforts under the National Action Plan and the Provincial Rule of Law Roadmap initiatives.
The last session of the meeting provided UNODC with the opportunity to obtain feedback and input from the judges on how the toolkit could be tailored to the specific context of Pakistan, including local procedures and legal frameworks which the participants identified. UNODC, will now begin drafting the tailored toolkit in collaboration with the Sindh Judicial Academy under the European Union funded project PACT Sindh.