03/09/2009

Reinstatement of Pakistan’s Chief Justice was just a small step in the long march to justice, says IBAHRI

A history of a lack of true commitment to fundamental rights and the rule of law is hindering Pakistan’s ability to reintroduce judicial independence despite the reinstatement of the Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, according to a report released today by the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI). The report, A Long March to Justice: A report on judicial independence and integrity in Pakistan, outlines political interference; corruption; a lack of accountability; flawed judicial appointment procedures; shortcomings of court infrastructure; and a lack of training for legal professionals as major hindrances to justice and the rule of law.

One of the main concerns identified in the report is the legacy of the state of emergency and its effect on constitutional provisions relating to fundamental rights. To redress this and other concerns the report makes 35 recommendations for change, including:

  • A major revision of the Constitution to remove the effects of the provisions introduced during the state of emergency.
  • A review and reform of judicial appointment and removal procedures to ensure greater transparency and independence from political interference. 
  • A review of the procedures for dealing with corruption at all levels in Pakistan’s society.
  • The introduction of a system of performance management for the judiciary and court staff.
  • An urgent review of the security protection provided to members of the judiciary, particularly during controversial or sensitive trials.
  • The improvement of the physical infrastructure and financial autonomy of courts, especially of the subordinate courts.
  • A review of remuneration schemes and security of tenure of all judges. 
  • A re-examination of the Code of Conduct and ethical behaviour for lawyers.
  • Improvements in legal education.
  • Strengthening the right to freedom of expression, particularly for the media.

An IBAHRI high-level delegation of jurists visited Pakistan in March and met with over 100 judges, lawyers, politicians, academics, law students, journalists, human rights activists, bar associations, non-governmental organisations and members of civil society to examine the independence of the judiciary in Pakistan.

This visit came as hundreds of lawyers were concluding the 'Long March' which called for the reinstatement of the Chief Justice and the restoration of the judiciary. The events surrounding the removal and later reinstatement of the Chief Justice of Pakistan are summarised within the report in the context of the role of the legal profession and activism, and the issue of the Islamisation of the Pakistani legal system, particularly in areas such as the Swat Valley.

The justice system has for too long been regarded as subordinate to political expediency,’ said Justice Richard Goldstone, Co-Chair of the IBAHRI. ‘Expectations are high that the judiciary in particular, and the legal profession in general, will take a leading role in restoring the rule of law and the protection of human rights in Pakistan. The government and the judiciary must implement changes to ensure that fundamental rights are not only implemented but truly respected in Pakistan.’

Dr Phillip Tahmindjis, Deputy Director of the IBAHRI and member of the delegation, said: ‘Unfortunately, the status of the judiciary in Pakistan is low. It cannot be right that litigants frequently feel that it is a waste of time to resort to a court to resolve a matter. Corruption in Pakistan is endemic. It is hindering the rule of law at all levels. In order to combat it, systemic issues have to be addressed – there can be no simple solutions.

Click here to download the full report from the IBA website, A Long March to Justice: A report on judicial independence and integrity in Pakistan.

ENDS

For further information please contact:

Romana St. Matthew - Daniel
International Bar Association

Press Office
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Direct Line: +44 (0)20 7691 6837
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E-mail: romana.daniel@int-bar.org
Website: www.ibanet.org

Notes to the Editor

The Report was compiled in compliance with the Lund-London Guidelines 2009 on Human Rights Fact Finding and Reports (www.factfindingguidelines.org).

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