Pakistan: ICJ condemns bombing of Islamabad Court and assassination of Judge Rafaqat Awan
The shooting and bombing at an Islamabad Court today should be condemned as a presumed attack against the judicial officials and the independence of the judiciary in Pakistan, says the ICJ.
The attack resulted in the killing of Additional Sessions Judge Rafaqat Ahmad Khan Awan and at least ten other persons, including several lawyers.
According to reports, armed gunmen forced their way into a court complex in Islamabad, openly firing on judges and lawyers before at least two of the men blew themselves up inside the court complex.
One of the attackers detonated himself outside the door of a judge’s office, while the other targeted the office of the Lawyers’ Union President.
Another gunmen entered Judge Rafaqat Awan’s courtroom, where he shot and killed him.
“An intentional killing of a member of the judiciary can be seen as nothing other than an attack against the independence and impartiality of the judiciary as a whole,” said Sam Zarifi, ICJ Asia Pacific Regional Director.
“In addition to personal tragedy that has befallen the slain victims and their families, this attack and those like it are devastating for the people of Pakistan,” he added. “Courthouses, which should be places where justice is administered, are instead becoming slaughterhouses.”
This is the third armed attack against members of the judiciary in Pakistan in under a year. In March 2013, a judicial compound was attacked in Peshawar, killing four people.
In June 2013, a Sindh High Court judge’s convoy was attacked in Karachi, killing nine people.
As set out in the UN Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, Pakistan must take steps to protect and ensure the safety of members of the judiciary from threats and violence from any quarter for any reason.
The Beijing Statement of Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary in the LAWASIA region further elaborates that the executive branch must at all times ensure the security and physical protection of judges and their families.
As a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Pakistan is under a general obligation to ensure the safety of all persons within its territory at all times.
“If judges are under constant fear of violence from insurgent groups, they cannot function as an independent and impartial judiciary – an indispensible requirement for preserving rule of law and democracy,” Zarifi said.
The ICJ calls on the Government of Pakistan to take steps to immediately investigate and bring to justice those persons responsible for the armed attack on the Courthouse.
Sam Zarifi, ICJ Asia-Pacific Regional Director, (Bangkok), t:+66(0) 807819002; email: sam.zarifi(a)icj.org
Reema Omer, ICJ Legal Advisor, Pakistan (London), t: +447889565691; email: reema.omer(a)icj.org
Photo credit: MYRA IQBAL