Parvez Aslam Choudhry

Re: Parvez Aslam Choudhry

To: President Pervez Musharaf, Pakistan Secretariat

From: Benjamin D. Levine

Date: 2007-06-26

LRWC is gravely concerned for the safety and well-being of Mr. Parvez Aslam Choudhry, a lawyer, because of acts of violence and intimidation perpetrated against him. These acts are calculated to prevent Mr. Parvez Aslam Choudhry from acting as legal counsel to Mr.Younis Masih, who is charged with violating section 295C of the Pakistan Penal Code by committing blasphemy.

I am writing, as the Pakistan Country Monitor for LRWC, in response to information obtained from a variety of sources indicating that Mr. Parvez Aslam Choudhry has been intimidated, harassed, and threatened since he began defending Mr. Younis Masih against the charge of blasphemy. Central to the defence’s argument is the claim the charge of blasphemy violates Mr. Younis Masih’s basic human right to express himself.

On May 11, 2006, an attempt was made on Mr. Parvez Aslam Choudhry’s life when the vehicle he was traveling in with two others was struck intentionally by another car and pushed forty feet down an embankment. One passenger, Rana Javed Rafiq, a lawyer, died instantly. Mr. Parvez Aslam Choudhry was hospitalized due to serious injury. In February and July 2006 Mr. Parvez Aslam Choudhry was threatened at gun point with death if he continued to lawfully defend Mr. Younis Masih. Incredibly, during the trial of Mr. Younis Choudhry, Mr. Parvez Aslam Choudhry was threatened by the prosecutor for merely asserting a defence to the charge of blasphemy.

LRWC is concerned the government and police of Pakistan are not doing enough to ensure the rights and safety of Mr. Parvez Aslam Choudhry.

Pakistan has a responsibility to adopt such measures as are necessary to guarantee the life and physical safety of Mr. Parvez Aslam Choudhry, and his family. This duty arises from Pakistan’s membership in the United Nations (UN). This same responsibility also arises from many UN conventions and covenants to which Pakistan is a signatory including: the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, especially Article 1 of that document, which states:

“every person has the right, individually or collectively, to promote the protection and fulfilment of human rights and fundamental liberties at the national and international levels”.

The Declaration on Human Rights Defenders further requires (see Articles 9(5) and (11)) your government to conduct a prompt, impartial and effective investigation of the coercive measures taken against Mr. Parvez Aslam Choudhry.

Further, Pakistan has a responsibility to comply with Article 12.2, which stipulates that:

“the State shall take any necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure, adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”,

As well as article 13, which states that:

“everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to solicit, receive and utilise resources for the express purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms through peaceful means, in accordance with article 3 of the present Declaration;

Pakistan’s failure to protect Mr. Parvez Aslam Choudhry’s rights present a threat to Pakistan’s credibility as a signatory to international conventions such as the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, and the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders.

Pakistan’s permissive attitude towards the intimidation of Mr. Parvez Aslam Choudhry and other lawyers undermines efforts Pakistan claims to be making to implement the Rule of Law. Clearly there can be no rule of law, and no legitimate legal system deserving of international respect can exist, in an environment where lawyers are threatened with death for asserting their client’s basic human rights. We’re sure you understand this.

LRWC respectfully urges your government to act in accordance with the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the other relevant international and regional pacts and covenants ratified by Pakistan. The Pakistan legal system will never achieve the respect of the international community so long as the Pakistan government, courts, police, and Justice Ministry continue to fail to meet obligations arising from the many international conventions to which Pakistan is a signatory.

Finally, we again call upon you to ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

Please advise LRWC by mail, e-mail or fax of the actions that the government of Pakistan is taking to:

1. ensure the present and future safety of Mr. Parvez Aslam Choudhry and his family;

2. Order the prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into threats, harassment and attacks against Mr. Parvez Aslam Choudhry, and bring those responsible to justice.

LRWC awaits your response. Thank you for your attention to our concerns.