ISLAMABAD - International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has said the indictment of General Pervez Musharraf on charges of treason marks a milestone for Pakistan's judiciary, which must ensure his trial fully complies with international standards.
"General Musharraf's treason trial is unprecedented in Pakistan's political and legal history," said Sam Zarifi, ICJ's Asia Director, in press statement on Monday.
"This is an opportunity for Pakistan's judiciary to demonstrate that no-one is above the law and that everyone accused of an offence has the right to a trial that is, and is seen to be, impartial, independent and expeditious."
"This trial marks the first time a senior Pakistani military figure could be held to account for trampling on the rule of law and human rights in the country," Zarifi said. "General Musharraf should be facing a proper trial for the many human rights violations that took place during his rule and under his command. But this case is at least a start."
The lead-up to the trial has been marked by confusion, including erroneous reports last week suggesting that Justice Faisal Arab had quit the three-member special court, a move that could possibly have aborted the trial, the ICJ noted.
There have been many hurdles in the proceedings so far, including General Musharraf's health, security threats, and concerns about whether he can be guaranteed a fair trial.
"Every effort must be taken to ensure that General Musharraf's rights as an accused are protected and that the trial complies with Pakistani and international fair trial standards. If convicted of high treason he should be sentenced to life imprisonment, rather than the death penalty."
The ICJ considers the death penalty in all cases to constitute a violation of the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.