Pakistan

In early November, President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan suspended the national constitution, detained members of the Supreme Court and arrested hundreds of Pakistani lawyers. There were reports by various media sources, human rights organizations and national and international legal organizations that as many as 3,500 lawyers had been detained since the imposition of emergency rule.  President Musharraf sought to justify his actions by citing the threat of terrorism. This move was denounced by the international community as a breach of the rule of law and goes against the principles of a fair and democratic society.

As a result, a number of legal organizations around the world released statements condemning the actions of the Pakistan authorities, including the Canadian Bar Association, the American Bar Association, Lawyers Rights Watch, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, The Law Society of England and Wales, the International Bar Association, the Commonwealth Lawyers Association and the International Commission of Jurists.

On November 9, 2007, The Law Society of Upper Canada released the following statement:

The Law Society of Upper Canada Expresses Grave Concerns about the Dismantling of the Rule of Law in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan

TORONTO - The actions of President General Pervez Musharraf are blatant violations of fundamental human rights under international law and unacceptable attacks on the independence of the judiciary, the bar, and the rule of law.

The Law Society deplores and condemns the imposition of the Proclamation of Emergency, the suspension of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, the dismissal of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and over 40 other judges, the abrogation of the rule of law and of the independence of the Supreme Court Bar Association, and the reported detention of at least 3,500 lawyers and civil rights activists.

Lawyers detained include Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, officers of other Bar Associations, Asma Jahangir, International Commission of Jurists Commissioner and United Nations Special Rapporteur on religious intolerance and at least 70 members of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary, state that judicial independence and human rights are necessary to advancing the rule of law.

The Law Society calls on the Pakistan authorities to,

  • immediately reinstate the Constitution of the Republic of Pakistan and put an end to the Proclamation of Emergency;
  • immediately release from detention and house arrest those detained after the declaration of the state of emergency;
  • respect the independence of the legal profession and the right of lawyers to exercise freedom of opinion and conscience and to exercise their legitimate professional duties as lawyers;
  • restore the independence of the judiciary by reinstating Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and other judicial officers displaced by recent events;
  • provide assurances that the elections to take place in January will occur as planned, resulting in a full and democratic transition to civilian rule.

"The Law Society stands with its colleagues in Pakistan who are engaged in upholding the Rule of Law at this difficult time. We recognize that lawyers have a unique role to play in sustaining and developing democratic principles and commend our colleagues for their vigilance and their courage. The erosion of respect for the rule of law elsewhere threatens its tenuous position even in the most democratic societies," said Gavin MacKenzie, Treasurer of the Law Society of Upper Canada.

The Law Society urges the legal community to intervene in support of members of the legal profession in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in their efforts to maintain the independence of the judiciary and to promote the rule of law.

On November 29, 2007, The Law Society of Upper Canada and the Ontario Bar Association hosted a gathering in support of lawyers and defenders of the rule of law in Pakistan, in response to the violations of human rights and attacks on the rule of law.

The gathering took place at 1:15 p.m. at Osgoode Hall (front of the main entrance). The following lawyers spoke:

Gavin MacKenzie, Treasurer of The Law Society of Upper Canada;

Heather Ross, Bencher and Chair of the Human Rights Monitoring Group, The Law Society of Upper Canada;

David A. Wright, Chair of Constitutional, Civil Liberties and Human Rights Section of the Ontario Bar Association;

Raj Anand, Bencher of The Law Society of Upper Canada;

Gregory D. Goulin, President of the Ontario Bar Association.

About 400 lawyers and friends came to Osgoode Hall to show solidarity with their colleagues in Pakistan. More than 200 people signed the petition against the Pakistan authorities' actions.

On January 3, 2008, the Law Society released the following statement condemning the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, former Pakistan prime minister, and the deaths of others who perished in the attack on her life on December 27, 2007.

Law Society condemns assassination of former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto, expresses concerns about further violations of the rule of law

The Law Society of Upper Canada joins the worldwide legal community in its support for an international, neutral investigation into the assassination of former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto. It is also calling on lawyers to continue to support members of the legal profession and the judiciary in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in their efforts to restore the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.

The Law Society of Upper Canada condemns the assassination of the former Pakistan prime minister and the deaths of others who perished in the attack on her life on December 27, 2007. Bhutto's assassination follows months of unrest and violations of human rights in Pakistan and has led to intensifying violence and deeper political turmoil.

"We were shocked and saddened by the news of Benazir Bhutto's assassination," said Law Society Treasurer Gavin MacKenzie. "The Law Society is greatly concerned that the assassination and killings are symptomatic of a continuing erosion of democracy and human rights in Pakistan. Reports of intensified mistreatment of judges and lawyers in Pakistan suggest that the rule of law is now even further from being restored," he said.

In November 2007, the Law Society condemned the imposition of the Proclamation of Emergency; the suspension of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan; the dismissal of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and over 40 other judges; the abrogation of the rule of law; and the reported detention of at least 3,500 lawyers and civil rights activists.

The Law Society held a gathering on November 29, 2007 with the Ontario Bar Association, to call for the restoration of the rule of law in Pakistan. More than 400 judges, lawyers and friends were in attendance.

The Law Society governs legal service providers in the public interest by ensuring that the people of Ontario are served by lawyers and paralegals who meet high standards of learning, competence and professional conduct and by upholding the independence, integrity and honour of the legal professions for the purpose of advancing the cause of justice and the rule of law.

In February 2008, Lawyers Rights Watch Canada ("LRWC") attended at the 7th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva and made written and oral presentations regarding Pakistan on behalf of LRWC and sixteen human rights organizations, including the Law Society.

The Law Society of Upper Canada released another public statement in November 2008, marking the first anniversary of the state of emergency and condemning the continued violations of the rule of law.

The Law Society of Upper Canada Expresses its Support for Lawyers and Judges
in Pakistan Following the First Anniversary of Ouster of Judges in Pakistan

Monday November 3rd, 2008 marked the one year anniversary of the state of emergency imposed by former Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf. Although the emergency has been lifted, and a new government has been formed, many of the conditions of last year's tenuous political situation remain. For instance, many of the judges, including Chief Justice Iftikar Chaudhry, who had been removed by Musharraf, have still not been reinstated by President Asif, Ali Zardari.

Thousands of lawyers, political party workers and human rights activists gathered on the streets of Rawalpindi on Monday November 3, 2008 to mark the anniversary of the state of emergency and to reissue calls for the reinstatement of Justice Chaudhry and the other judges. The lawyers protested to vent their anger at the lingering restrictions to the rule of law in Pakistan, and warned that there would be a storm of protests if their demands are ignored by the government.

Since the State of Emergency and the suspension of constitutional rights were carried out last year by former president Musharraf, the Law Society of Upper Canada has taken an active interest in the tenuous political situation in Pakistan, and its impact on lawyers and judges in that country.

On November 9, 2007, the Law Society of Upper Canada released a public statement condemning the state of emergency, the dismissal of the judges and critiquing the violations of the rule of law carried out by the Musharraf government. Further, on November 29, 2007, the Law Society of Upper Canada along with the Ontario Bar Association organized a gathering of lawyers in support of lawyers and defenders of the rule of law in Pakistan. The Law Society of Upper Canada's interest in Pakistan was expressed once again on January 3, 2008, when it issued a statement condemning the assassination of former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The assassination raised concerns about further violations of the rule of law.

Although the current government, led by Prime Minister Asif Ali Zardari, is gradually moving toward constitutional democracy, the Law Society of Upper Canada condemns the fact that an independent judiciary has not been restored. On the anniversary of the suspension of the Constitution and the dismissal of the superior judiciary, the Law Society of Upper Canada is concerned that the Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, and about fourteen superior court judges have not been restored to their judicial positions. The Law Society of Upper Canada also notes with dismay that the elected government has tacitly accepted General Pervez Musharraf's unconstitutional actions, and has taken no substantive steps to reverse the unconstitutional actions of November 3rd, 2007.

The Law Society of Upper Canada urges the government of Pakistan to reinstate all members of the judiciary who were summarily dismissed by former president Musharraf, and to work with both judges and lawyers to ensure the full operation of the rule of law and constitutional entitlements in Pakistan. In recent days, the Barreau du Quebec and the New Zealand Law Society have written letters to the Pakistan authorities expressing their concern over the current political situation and its impact on judges and lawyers. The Law Society of Upper Canada joins its colleagues in Canada and abroad in striving to safeguard the rule of law in Pakistan and in expressing solidarity with members of the legal profession in Pakistan.

"We echo the message of other legal organizations, and urge President Zardari to reinstate Chief Justice Chaudhry as well as any other members of the judiciary who have yet to be reinstated", said Law Society of Upper Canada Treasurer W. A. Derry Millar. "Such action is vital to solidifying of the rule of law in Pakistan and safeguarding members of the legal profession", he continued.

The Law Society of Upper Canada governs lawyers and paralegals in the public interest by ensuring that the people of Ontario are served by lawyers and paralegals who meet high standards of learning, competence and professional conduct and by upholding the independence, integrity and honour of the legal professions for the purpose of advance in the case of justice and the rule of law.

In recent days, the Barreau du Quebec and the New Zealand Law Society have written letters to the Pakistan authorities expressing their concern over the current political situation and its impact on judges and lawyers. The Law Society of Upper Canada joins its colleagues in Canada and abroad in striving to safeguard the rule of law in Pakistan and in expressing solidarity with members of the legal profession in Pakistan.

"We echo the message of other legal organizations, and urge President Zardari to reinstate Chief Justice Chaudhry as well as any other members of the judiciary who have yet to be reinstated", said Law Society of Upper Canada Treasurer W. A. Derry Millar. "Such action is vital to solidifying of the rule of law in Pakistan and safeguarding members of the legal profession", he continued.

The Law Society of Upper Canada governs lawyers and paralegals in the public interest by ensuring that the people of Ontario are served by lawyers and paralegals who meet high standards of learning, competence and professional conduct and by upholding the independence, integrity and honour of the

legal professions for the purpose of advance in the case of justice and the rule of law.