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Pakistan President Signs Bill Allowing Military Courts for Terror Suspects

Pakistani security personal stand guard at the entrance of the National Assembly building during an assembly session in Islamabad, Pakistan, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015.

Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain Wednesday signed into law legislation allowing creation of military courts to swiftly try civilian terrorism suspects. Parliament approved the measure on Tuesday.

The controversial courts are part of a set of measures the government has taken to clamp down on Islamist militancy after Taliban gunmen attacked a Peshawar school and killed 134 children along with 16 staff members last month. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the bloodshed and vowed to carry out more such attacks.

The law approving the military courts will stay on the books for two years and lawmakers have defended the move by saying militant threats have discouraged civilian courts, witnesses and prosecutors from bringing terrorists to justice.

But local and international human rights advocates have denounced Pakistani political leaders for permitting military trials of civilians.

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said the military tribunals are “a serious blow to human rights and rule of law” in Pakistan.

"Pakistan must reject this counterproductive strategy and instead strengthen its judicial process and law enforcement in line with its domestic and international obligations," ICJ’s Asia Director Sam Zarifi said in a statement.

Prime Minister Sharif reinstated the death penalty two days after the December 16 school attack in Peshawar and authorities have hanged nine men previously convicted of terrorism charges. They included executions of two convicts in the city of Multan Wednesday.

The men were members of the outlawed Sunni militant group Sipah-e-Sahaba, which is blamed for deadly attacks in the minority Shiite Muslims in Pakistan. Authorities plan to execute around 500 other people sentenced to death. The lifting of the ban on executions has also angered human rights organizations. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon personally telephoned Sharif and asked him to reverse his decision.