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[Statement] Japanese lawyers and activists call for immediate release of Pakistan human rights defenders and return to rule of law

 Human Rights Now, a Tokyo based international human rights organization constituted by lawyers, academic, activists and citizens calls for:
 1.  The immediate release of all lawyers arrested under preventative detention measures, including, without limiting the generality of the foregoing, Asma Jahangir, United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Aitzaz Ahsan, President of the Supreme Court Bar; over 50 members of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) including Executive Director I.A Rehman, Secretary-General Iqbal Hiader (former attorney general of Pakistan) and Jawed Iqbal Burqi; Muneer A Malik former president of the Supreme Court Bar Association; Imran Qureshi, of the Women's Rights organization;  Ali Ahmed Kurd, former Vice Chair of the Pakistan Bar Council; Tariq Mahmood, Ali Ahmed Kurd, Abrar Hassan, Ahsan Bhoon and others,
2.  Strict adherence by the State and state officials to all Pakistan laws and to applicable international standards governing the guarantees, safeguards, rights and freedoms app! licable to the role of lawyer, including those embodied in the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers
3.  Strict adherence by the State and state officials to all Pakistan laws and to applicable international standards governing the humane treatment of prisoners, including the universal non-derogable prohibition against torture;
 4.  Appropriate civil and criminal remedies for violations of the rights of those detained.
 5.  Dismissal of the warrant for the arrest of United Nations Special Rapporteur in Human Rights Defenders, Hina Jilani.
 6.  The immediate re-instatement of and adherence to the Constitution of the Republic of Pakistan and rescission of the Emergency Declaration of November 3, 2007, the Provisional Constitutional Order No. 1 of 2007 and the Oath of Offices (Judges) Order, 2007

    It is apparent that the above named and numerous other Pakistan lawyers have been arrested and detained solely to prevent them from carrying out their professional duty to advocate vigorously against the arbitrary suspension of the rule of law and violation of human rights by the Musharraf regime, and for the restoration of law in Pakistan.  Reports indicate that the lawyers arrested have been subjected to a number of serious violations of their fundamental rights in addition to arbitrary arrest and detention, including denial of due process, denial of necessary medical attention, denial of access to legal representatives and visitors and exposure to the possibility of torture and other prohibited inhumane treatment. Recent (November 11, 2007) amendments were made to the law to allow the trial of lawyers and other civilians by military courts for a range of acts including making statements 'conducive to public mischief'.

    HRN states that lawyers in Pakistan are duty bound to uphold the rule of law and to advocate for justice and against repression.
To do so, they must be willing and free to stand between the state and the citizen and to criticize and call into question the actions of the State when human rights are threatened.

Norms of international law establish minimum standards protecting the advocacy rights of lawyers and these standards have been adopted by Pakistan both as a member of the United Nations and the Commonwealth Secretariat.

The UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, at Articles 16 and 17, require Pakistan to ensure that lawyers are free to "perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference..." and "where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities." Furthermore, Article 23 of the UN Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers provides that "Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights ."

Pakistan is also obligated to respect the prohibitions against torture, arbitrary arrest and detention contained in, inter alia, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).  State practice and opinio juris have resulted in these rights becoming part of customary international law.
Regardless of the current status of the Pakistani Constitution, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan remains obligated to observe these basic tenants of international law.

HRN condemns military president General Pervez Musharraf's repression of the peaceful efforts of members of the Pakistani Bar to uphold the law and to advocate for the rule of law, the independence of the Pakistan judiciary and adherence by the Musharraf regime, to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.  

HRN condemns the extra-legal measures being used to punish the legitimate and lawful exercise of freedom of speech and assembly by lawyers.

HRN view the Emergency Declaration and subsequent changes to Pakistan law as being illegitimate, prohibited by both the Constitution of the Republic of Pakistan and by international law, with a cloak of apparent legality.


When military President Musharraf sacked the Chief Justice of the Pakistan Supreme Court on March 9, 2007, hundreds of lawyers rallied and spoke publicly in support of the Chief Justice and against proceedings brought against him by Musharraf.  Protests by lawyers, judges and others continued up to July 20, 2007 when the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered Chaudhry reinstated as Chief Justice and dismissed the proceedings against him as illegal.

The repression of lawyers by the Musharraf regime recommenced when a state of emergency was declared and the Pakistan Constitution suspended on November 3, 2007. The suspension of the constitution resulted in the repeal of fundamental human rights, including the right to life and liberty, freedoms of assembly, association and speech, equality before and equal protection of the law.  Core legal rights related to arrest and detention are also repealed, including the right to counsel. Since then, thousands of
lawyers and human rights activists have been arrested and detained.

HRN joins with other lawyers and human rights advocates in Pakistan and around the world in calling for the immediate remedies set out above.