Defending defenders in Pakistan
“Many people have been released from jail only because of international pressure from your organization and others. Our government had to release them because of this pressure. I just want to mention how important this is and that we need you to continue.”
Telephone call to LRWC from a lawyer in Pakistan, December 3/07.
Since March 2007 when the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry was suspended by General Musharraf for making decisions unpopular with the General, LRWC has published a number of public statements and open letters calling attention to the military regime’s destruction of the Pakistan legal system through: the March 2007 suspension and house arrest of the Chief Justice of the Pakistan Supreme Court, the arrest and maltreatment of thousands protesting the chief justice’s removal, the Emergency Measures Declaration of November 3, 2007 and suspension of the Constitution of Pakistan, the sacking and detention of judges who refused to conform to the Oath of Offices (Judges) Order 2007 and the arrests of thousands of lawyers and activists, including Pakistan’s most senior lawyers. Lawyers, judges and activists have been arrested for advocating adherence to customary international law and the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (Constitution) and for protesting the military regime’s suspension of the Constitution, sacking of judges, arrest of thousands of human rights defenders and violations of fundamental human rights and freedoms.
In preparing these statements LRWC worked with many groups around the world including: including Amsterdam-based, Dutch Lawyers for Lawyers Foundation (L4L), the Montreal-based Lawyers without Borders (LWB/Q), and the Hong Kong-based Asian Legal Resource Centre (ALRC) and Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and with lawyers in Pakistan. On December 3rd, one of our Pakistan colleagues reached us by phone to say,
“Myself and a lot of my friends are fighting for our human rights. We are beaten by police and have been arrested. We are very thankful to you and Lawyers Rights Watch. We are very obliged to your organization. We have distributed your email to our friends and colleagues. I read your email to a group of 1,500 lawyers. Please publish our struggle in the media and tell people what is going on in Pakistan. Many people have been released from jail only because of international pressure from your organization and others. Our government had to release them because of this pressure. I just want to mention how important this is and that we need you to continue.”
Statements and Letters
- Mar. 19/07-LRWC calls for re-instatement of Chief Justice Chaudhry.
- Apr. 27/07-LRWC rejects legitimacy of procedures created by General Musharraf to review suspension of Iftidar Mohammed Chaudhry.
- May 8/07-LRWC welcomes Supreme Court decision to stay review proceedings.
- July 4/07-LRWC letter to UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers.
- Oct. 1/07-LRWC calls for the release of demonstrators and adherence to internationally recognized human rights standards.
- Nov. 5/07-LRWC calls for re-instatement of the Constitution of Pakistan and release of prisoners.
- Nov. 6/07-LRWC calls for the release of Asma Jahangir, Hina Jilani, and other human rights advocates.
- Nov. 6/07-LRWC and L4L call on Musharraf to release lawyers.
- Nov. 13/07-LRWC, L4L, LWB/Q and ALRC call for the release of all lawyers, adherence to customary international law standards regarding human rights and the re-instatement of the Constitution of Pakistan.
- Nov. 26/-7-LRWC, L4L and LWB/Q call on Canadian government to act to secure the release of Pakistan jurists, a list of all those arrested and to request permission to visit those detained. AHRC endorses this letter.
- Nov. 29/07-LRWC and L4L call on General Musharraf to release lawyers in prison and under house arrest and provide necessary medical treatment to Munir Malik and other detained.
- Jan. 22/08- LRWC, L4L, ALRC, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and the Rule of Law Project, Lahore University of Management Sciences conclude that the imposition, duration and removal of the November emergency measures violated the Pakistan Constitution and failed to meet the UN tests of legitimacy and were therefore illegitimate.
The National Lawyers Guild which endorsed the January 22, 2008 statement issued by LRWC, L4L and ALRC, is the oldest integrated national bar association in the United States and a member of the International Association of Democratic Lawyers. Response to the January 22/08 statement from Pakistan was very positive. The Rule of Law Project group at the University of Lahore, an academic clearinghouse for information and research addressing the rule of law situation in Pakistan, also endorsed the Jan. 22/08 statement. A Pakistan colleague read the January 22nd statement to a conference in Multan, Pakistan and reported “there was just one voice in response—the voice of clapping.” Another Pakistan lawyer emailed saying, “Thank you for being our voice.
Other Actions by LRWC and LRWC partners
December 11, 2007 – Vancouver. Pakistan Under the Gun, a public forum was held in Vancouver on December 11, 7:00 pm at the Vancouver Public Library, sponsored by the Vancouver and District Labour Council, India Pakistan Peace Network, Network for Secularism and Democracy, LRWC and the International Solidarity Committee.
December 11, 2007 – United Nations Human Rights Council ( UNHRC) L4L Executive Director Judith Lichentenberg attended the 6th Session of the UNHRC as a representative of LRWC with AHRC Executive Director Michael Anthony to intervene regarding Pakistan.
February 20 2008 – LRWC submitted, as allowed by LRWC Special Consultative Status, a written statement to the 7th Session of the UNHRC calling on UNHRC to act to protect human rights in Pakistan by ensuring the restoration of the Pakistan judiciary and Constitution and the release of detained jurists. LRWC members who worked on the statement: John Cotter, Cara Gibbons, Grace Woo, Margaret Stanier, Gail Davidson.
As of the February 20th 2008 filing date, three groups had endorsed the LRWC statement: Lawyers without Borders/Canada – LWB/C (Canada), the Dutch Lawyers for Lawyers Foundation – L4L (the Netherlands) and the Asian Legal Resource Centre and Asian Human Rights Commission – ALRC/AHRC (Hong Kong).
By the beginning of March 2008 LRWC’s statement had been endorsed by 16 NGOs around the world including the National Lawyers Guild, the Association of American Jurists, the International Association of Democratic Lawyer, the Bar Committee of England and Wales and the Law Society of Upper Canada. (complete list below)
March 5 – 14 2008 LRWC Executive Director, Gail Davidson, attended the 7th Session of the UNHRC, March 5 – 12, 2008 and made an oral presentation March 7th 2008 to the UNHRC on behalf of LRWC and the 16 endorsing NGOs.
LRWC also joined the following oral presentations to the UNHRC:
- International Association of Democratic Lawyers March 13/08 presentation by Edre Olalia on extra-judicial killings of jurists in the Philippines;
- ALRC’s March 14/08 oral presentation by Michael Anthony regarding disappearances and other human rights violations in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal;
While in Geneva, Ms Davidson met with UN High Commissioner of Human Rights Louise Arbour, Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfed Nowak and Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders Hina Jilani. She also met with representatives of L4L, ALRC/AHRC and the National Union of People’s Lawyers – NUPL. A planned meeting with Munir Malik, former president of the Pakistan Supreme Court Bar, did not take place as Mr. Malik was not able to obtain a Swiss visa.
LRWC, ALRC and L4L will continue to monitor the situations in Pakistan and report to the NGOs endorsing our written statements. As needed, LRWC and L4L will report further to the UNHRC and to appropriate Special Rapporteurs/Representatives and attend the 8th Session of the UNHRC in Geneva in June 2008.
LRWC attendance at the UNHRC enabled LRWC to:
a) effectively speak in support of the rule of law and lawyers in Pakistan;
b) successfully collaborate with many NGOs around the world;
c) meet with NGOs and plan for further collaboration on the Pakistan and Philippine campaigns;
d) strengthen existing working relationships with partner NGOs L4L, NUPL, AHRC and ALRC;
e) create new liaisons and working relationships with other NGOs;
f) productively use LRWC’s Special Consultative status to contribute to the implementation and enforcement of human rights through the United Nations system.
NGOS endorsing Pakistan Statement to 7th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council
Dutch Lawyers for Lawyers Foundation – L4L (the Netherlands)
Asian Human Rights Commission/Asian Legal Resource Centre – AHRC (Hong Kong)
Lawyers Without Borders Canada – LWB/C (Canada)
International Association of Democratic Lawyers – IADL (International/Belgium)
Republican Attorneys Association – RAV (Germany)
Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales – BHRC (United Kingdom)
National Lawyers Guild – NLG (United States)
American Association of Jurists – AAJ (International)
Rule of Law Project, Lahore University of Management Sciences – LUMS (Pakistan)
International Association of People’s Lawyers –IAPL- (International/Philippines)
National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers- NUPL (Philippines)
Counsels for the Defense of Liberties – CODAL (Philippines)
Front Line – International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (Ireland)
International Criminal Defence Attorneys Association – ICDAA (International/Canada)
South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy – SANSAD (Canada)
Law Society of Upper Canada – LSUC (Canada)