Pakistan: Attack on advocate Asma Jahangir

The ICJ’s Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers intervened today with the Government of Pakistan, expressing its deep concern over the recent attack on Advocate Asma Jahangir.

The ICJ requested that this attack be fully investigated, that the perpetrators be brought to justice, and that Advocate Jahangir be protected from such attacks in the future. The ICJ urged the Government of Pakistan to strive to maintain the Rule of Law, the independence of the judiciary, and the right to a fair trial.

According to information received by the ICJ, Advocate Jahangir, a lawyer and the chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, was attacked by a mob on 15 February 1995 on the premises of the High Court in Lahore. Advocate Jahangir is presently appealing the death sentence of Salamat Masih, a 14-year-old boy, and another person charged with blasphemy. The case centres upon the allegation that the defendants are responsible for anti-Islamic graffiti.

On 15 February, a mob at the High Court smashed Advocate Jahangir’s car, assaulted her driver, and threatened her with death. Reportedly, a number of lawyers who are members of extreme religious factions had threatened the judges of the case and instigated the mob to violence.

This is not the fIrst time that lawyers involved in this case have been attacked. As reported in ICJ’s 1994 edition of Attacks on Justice, Advocate Jahangir and three other lawyers have received prior threats. This violent harassment sends a clear warning to other legal professionals and human rights defenders not to espouse unpopular causes. Furthermore, the judiciary and the defendants’ right to a fair trial appear to be at grave risk.

The ICJ’s Centre for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers urges you to join its intervention on behalf of Advocate Asma Jahangir and to write to:

Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto
Office of the Prime Minster
Islamabad, Pakistan
Fax: (92-51) 811-390

Minister of Law Iqbal Haider
Ministry of Law
Pakistan Secretariat, Blocks R & S
Islamabad, Pakistan

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