March 28, 2017
Attacks on courts in Pakistan and Afghanistan reflect similarities of modus operandi and targets
Two recent attackson a van carrying Judges in Peshawar and outside Tangi court amplify the objective of the terrorists to persistently hit one of the most important components of the Criminal Justice System (CJS). These incidents lead to a number of questions that need to be addressed. During the climax of militancy,the police primarily remained in the line of fire but gradually other practitioners of CJS including judges, lawyers, prosecutors and jail officers also became victims of terrorism.
Despite dismally low conviction rates, why are courts ideal targets? Actually, after long spell of militancy and large number of arrests of militants,the public expects higher conviction rates. And the extremists through their relentless attacks want to keep the courts under pressure.
The list of attacks is long. In February 2007, detonation by a suicide attacker in the court of senior civil judge Quetta robbed lives of 16 including the judge and 6 lawyers. Two terror attacks at Peshawar court within the time span of a month claimed lives of many in 2009. In March 2013, two bombers again targeted the judicial complex Peshawar andfour lives were lost. In March 2014, in a gun-and-bomb attack 11 people, including an additional district and sessions judge, were killed inside the District Courts Islamabad.
In March 2016, a suicide bomber detonated in front of Shabqadar court resulted into death of 10 persons. Jamaat-ur-Ahrar (JuA) claimed responsibility for the attack and pleaded the reason behind it was vengeance for the hanging of Mumtaz Qadri. In August 2016 a suicide bomber targeted lawyers gathered in a hospital in Quetta resulted in death of 70. Later in 2016, a Mardan court was attacked.
Attacks on courts in Afghanistan and Pakistan show similarities of modus operandi and in the selection of targets.
February 7, 2017
A suicide bombing near the offices of the Afghan Supreme Court in central Kabul during the evening rush hour on Tuesday killed more than a dozen people and wounded many more, officials said.
Witnesses said a suicide bomber walked up to the entrance of the court as workers were leaving and set off his explosives.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. A spokesman for the Taliban said that the group was looking into whether the bomber was one of its fighters. The group in the past has claimed responsibility for many court-related assaults, including on provincial courtrooms and buses carrying court employees.
Wahidullah Mayar, the senior public relations adviser to the Ministry of Public Health, said 20 people were killed, including three women and one child, and 41 others were wounded. Police officials put the casualties at 13 dead and 25 wounded as of Tuesday night.
June 5, 2016
Three Taliban gunmen on Sunday attacked a court building in eastern Afghanistan, killing seven people including a newly appointed chief prosecutor. Authorities state [AP report] that 21 others were injured in the attack before the gunmen were shot dead by policemen. The attack follows an incident last week when four disguised Taliban gunmen attacked another court building in the eastern Ghazni province. Recent attacks have been perceived as a war against judicial officials incited by the execution of six convicted insurgents last month. In light of these attacks, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) [official website] has stressed the importance of securing judicial institutions and protecting judicial officials and civilians.
Civilian casualties continue to be a primary issue in the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. In February UNAMAreported [JURIST report] that civilian casualties in Afghanistan had reached a record high 11,000 in 2015. In November the US Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] and Pentagon officials completed their investigation [JURIST report] into the October 3 bombing of the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) [advocacy website] hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, and announced [statement] that it was an “avoidable accident caused primarily by human error.”
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) [official website] on Monday condemned [press release] Sunday’s suicide attack targeting a bus carrying civilian passengers working for the Attorney General’s office. The attack killed five prosecutors and injured 19 people. The Taliban claimed responsibility, making this their twelfth attack in 2015 against legal professionals, killing a total of about 114 civilians. UNAMA stated that Afghanistan and the Taliban are bound by international humanitarian law, which forbids all attacks on civilians.
Afghanistan has been the target of much criticism regarding human rights issues. Last month UNAMA reported an increase in civilian casualties [JURIST report] from ground engagements in Afghanistan compared to the same time last year, with indications that the number will continue to rise in the coming months. Amnesty International [advocacy website] reported last month that Afghanistan women’s rights activists are facing increased violence [JURIST report] and a lack of governmental support. UNAMA announced in February that Afghanistan has made “some progress” [JURIST report] toward preventing the torture of government detainees. Also in February UNAMA released a report indicating a 22 percent increase in civilian causalities [JURIST report] in 2014, making 2014 the deadliest year in Afghanistan since 2009. In November the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women called on the government of Afghanistan [JURIST report] and the international community to adopt sustainable measures to address violence against women in the country. UNAMA and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] released a study last February that raised concern over the treatment of women [JURIST report] in the country.