MAY 8, 2007: (Update to LRWC statements of March 19 and April 27, 2007) LRWC welcomes the May 7, 2007 decision of the Supreme Court of Pakistan to stay the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) in camera consideration of allegations against Chief Justice Chaudhry. LRWC looks forward to a timely determination of the allegations in open court, by an impartial and independent tribunal in strict accordance with recognized fair trial standards. It is with regret, however, that LRWC notes the May 4th arrest of Labour Party Pakistan’s General Secretary, Dr. Farooq Tariq, by a heavy contingent of Punjab Police. LRWC notes with concern, allegations that the arrest was occasioned by Dr. Tariq’s condemnation of the proceedings against Chief Justice Chaudhry and his public calls for Pakistani workers to rally in support of the deposed Chief Justice. LRWC stands by earlier statements that the suspension constitutes an unacceptable attack on the independence of the Pakistan judiciary and that the SJC proceedings have been irremediably invalidated by secrecy and a denial of due process. Consensus in Pakistan that both the suspension and the SJC proceedings contravene fundamental notions of justice, undermine the integrity of the judicial process and constitute an abuse of process, is amply demonstrated by continuing protests.
LRWC calls on the Government of Pakistan to:
- Abide by the May 7th decision of the Supreme Court; and, o Ensure that any proceedings to review the purported allegations against Chaudhry C.J. be conducted in open court, by an impartial and independent tribunal according to recognized fair trial standards; and,
- Reinstate Chief Justice Chaudhry, pending the proper determination of allegations against him; and,
- Publish the allegations against Dr. Tariq, and ensure their determination in open court by an impartial and independent tribunal according to recognized fair trial standards.
Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf suspended Chief Justice Chaudhry from his position as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan on March 9, 2007 citing allegations of “misconduct, misuse of authority and actions prejudicial to the dignity of office of the chief justice of Pakistan.” The International Commission of Jurists, in a report based on a recent week-long field visit, referred to the suspension, which took place after the Chief Justice refused General Musharrah’s request for his resignation, as “virtually unprecedented in the legal annals of the world” in a country with “well-known and well-documented instances of executive interference in the independence of the judiciary and judicial subservience.” The SJC was purporting, in camera, to review those allegations. Chief Justice Chaudhry challenged those proceedings in the Supreme Court, on the basis of bias and competence. On May 7th, the Supreme Court stayed proceedings in the SJC pending a determination of the Supreme Court petition.
Apparent political motivation behind the suspension
The suspension appears to have been precipitated by Chief Justice Chaudhry’s record of judicial independence and appears intended to prevent him from making further rulings unpopular with or adverse to the Musharraf government of Pakistan. Chaudhry, appointed to an 8-year term as Chief Justice in June 2005, has a reputation for judicial independence. He has made rulings reported to be unpopular with General Musharraf’s military junta.  Justice Chaudhry had ordered Pakistan’s intelligence agencies to disclose the whereabouts of a number of missing political activists allegedly detained illegally by security forces. These disappearances have been linked to Pakistan’s co-operation with the United States in its “war on terror.” In February 2007, Justice Chaudhry reportedly stated that General Musharraf could not legally continue, as army chief beyond his present term as president were he returned as President by Parliament, instead of through a general election. Observers had reported a plan to ensure Musharraf’s another term as President by having him returned by the present Parliament and postponing a general election.
Judicial independence: the cornerstone of the rule of law
Judicial independence, effectively guaranteed is the foundation upon which legitimate legal systems are developed. The requirement for an independence judiciary is enshrined in many international instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), widely cited as representing an international standard and the Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary and is guaranteed by the Constitution of Pakistan. 
Gail Davidson at firstname.lastname@example.org; or +1 604 738 0338
Cara Gibbons at email@example.com; or +1 416 822-1626 Associated Press of Pakistan, cited in Confrontation in Pakistan deepens. BBC. 16 March 2007. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6457019.stm]  International Commission of Jurists. Pakistan – ICJ concludes Mission to assess developments related to Reference against Chief Justice Chaudhry. April 26, 2007. [http://www.icj.org/news.php3?id_article=4154&lang=en].  Associated Press of Pakistan, cited in Confrontation in Pakistan deepens. BBC. 16 March 2007. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6457019.stm]  Amnesty International. United States of America: Below the radar: Secret flights to torture and ‘disappearance.’ April 5, 2006. [http://web.amnesty.org/library/Index/ENGAMR510512006]  Judge row prompts Pakistan democracy questions. BBC. 12 March 2007. [http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/6442829.stm].  Ibid.  Adopted by the Seventh United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders in 1985 and subsequently endorsed by General Assembly by resolutions 40/32 of 29 November 1985 and 40/146 of 13 December 1985, Article 1, “The independence of the judiciary shall be guaranteed by the State and enshrined in the Constitution or the law of the country. It is the duty of all governmental and other institutions to respect and observe the independence of the judiciary.”  The Constitution of Pakistan, Objective Resolution and Article 2A, “…the independence of the Judiciary shall be fully secured.”  Adopted by the Seventh United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders in 1985 and subsequently endorsed by General Assembly by resolutions 40/32 of 29 November 1985 and 40/146 of 13 December 1985, Article 1, “The independence of the judiciary shall be guaranteed by the State and enshrined in the Constitution or the law of the country. It is the duty of all governmental and other institutions to respect and observe the independence of the judiciary.”  The Constitution of Pakistan, Objective Resolution and Article 2A, “…the independence of the Judiciary shall be fully secured.”