US concerned over Pakistan’s ‘ill-trained’ prosecutors

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A diplomatic cable sent to Washington on June 27, 2009 by then US ambassador to Pakistan Anne W Patterson reveals that US diplomats were perturbed over Pakistan’s “ill-trained and ill-prepared” prosecutors.
“Pakistan’s prosecutors, under-resourced and poorly trained, are routinely characterised as the weakest link in a criminal justice system that sees up to 70 percent of its prosecutions end in acquittal. Prosecutors seldom work with police, do little to prepare their cases for trial, and are generally outgunned in the courtroom by defence counsel,” writes Patterson in a diplomatic memo recently leaked by WikiLeaks.
She writes that Pakistan’s prosecutors are currently one of the weak links in the country’s criminal justice system. “They are often ill-trained and ill-prepared to present the government’s cases in court. This, in turn, results in disproportionate numbers of acquittals at trial, some estimates put the acquittal rate at over 70 percent. Judges, police and even members of the defense bar routinely complain about the lack of competency and poor courtroom skills of the prosecutors,” the cable adds.
The cable says, “Prosecutors – to a greater extent than either police or judges – also suffer from a lack of institutional support. Unlike their judicial and law enforcement counterparts, Pakistan’s prosecutors are not organised into one unified national agency. Instead, prosecutorial responsibilities traditionally have been divided among a variety of national and provincial entities, a condition that largely continues today.”
In the diplomatic cable, Patterson terms the creation of Punjab Department of Public Prosecutions a step forward, saying efforts to create independent prosecution services at the provincial level were promoted earlier this decade as a condition for the judicial sector assistance provided by the Asian Development Bank’s Access to Justice Project. Such reforms came to fruition first in the Punjab, where legislation providing for an independent prosecution service was enacted in 2005. The Punjab Department of Public Prosecution (PDPP) became a reality in 2006. The PDPP now includes over 1,000 prosecutors from across the province, who represent the government in all criminal trials conducted in the Punjab. Resources for the PDPP remain very scarce. Prosecutors in some districts must function without access to any kind of office. Libraries, filing systems, administrative support, and computer access are all effectively non-existent.”
“The prosecutors in the Punjab (and elsewhere) are frank about their needs for training and resources. Unlike either the police or the judiciary, there is no dedicated raining institution for prosecutors at any level, nor any other access to training opportunities. Underlying legal education is also weak because law schools in Pakistan rarely provide any practical skills courses. While most defense lawyers go through a period of apprenticeship, prosecutors often lack even that kind of mentoring,” the cable says.