IBAHRI calls for protection of lawyers in Pakistan following the murder of Samiullah Afridi

The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) condemns unequivocally the murder of lawyer Samiullah Afridi on 17 March 2015, who was reportedly shot dead in an attack by unidentified assailants while on his way home in Peshawar, Pakistan.

In 2013, Samiullah Afridi stated that he had received several death threats from militant groups and various organisations. For his own safety, and that of his family, he fled Pakistan briefly. It is believed he was targeted due to his involvement representing Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi (no relation), who, it is alleged, ran a false vaccination campaign aimed at gathering DNA samples from the Abbottabad compound where the then wanted leader of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, was in hiding. It is believed that this DNA campaign assisted the United States intelligence agency, the CIA, in their search for, and subsequent assassination, of bin Laden. The ensuing trial of Dr Afridi concluded in May 2012, with him being sentenced to 33 years in prison. Commentators are convinced that Dr Afridi was not convicted on the DNA samples allegations, but rather as punishment for what is perceived as aiding the CIA. The sentence was overturned in 2013. He is currently awaiting a new trial.

In 2014, Mr Afridi stopped representing Dr Afridi due to the numerous death threats he had received.

IBAHRI Co-Chair Hans Corell commented: ‘The IBAHRI is extremely shocked and saddened by the reported death of Mr Samiullah Afridi. The attack on lawyers in Pakistan in the course of their profession is a matter of grave concern. It weakens the justice system which should guarantee the independence of lawyers in the discharge of their professional duties without any improper restrictions, pressures or interference. These developments are particularly worrying in light of recent reports of the attempted murder of human rights lawyer Shahbaz Gormani in December of last year.

He added: ‘The IBAHRI would like to remind the government of Pakistan of the tenets of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, and of its duty, under international law, to protect lawyers. Upholding this obligation is an essential part of ensuring that all persons have effective access to both legal services and justice.

IBAHRI Co-Chair Helena Kennedy QC added: ‘The IBAHRI calls on the government of Pakistan to do everything within its power to ensure a timely and effective investigation of the case, and to prosecute the perpetrators of the murder of Mr Afridi. As a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, it is the responsibility of Pakistan to take effective measures to ensure the right to life and to effectively prevent and punish violations of that right.

ENDS

Notes to the Editor

  1. Two groups have claimed responsibility for the death of Mr Afridi: Jundullah; and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaatul Ahrar (TTP-JA). 
     
  2. On 3 December 2014, Mr Shahbaz Gormani, a lawyer defending a university lecturer against blasphemy charges, was attacked by several gunmen at his residence. Mr Gormani had taken over the case after previous counsel Rashid Rehman, a prominent human rights lawyer, was shot dead on 7 May 2014.
     
  3. In March 2009, the IBAHRI conducted a fact-finding mission in Pakistan to examine the independence of the country’s judiciary. The report, A Long March to Justice: A report on judicial independence and integrity in Pakistan,outlined 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. Click here for more information on the report. 
    tinyurl.com/lg4a3l
     
  4. The International Bar Association (IBA), established in 1947, is the world’s leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Through its global membership of individual lawyers, law firms, bar associations and law societies it influences the development of international law reform and shapes the future of the legal profession throughout the world.

    The IBA’s administrative office is in London. Regional offices are located in: São Paulo, Brazil; Seoul, South Korea; and Washington DC, US.

    The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

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