In a report released today, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) calls upon the President of Pakistan, General Pervez Musharraf, to restore Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to the office of Chief Justice. The report states that the forcing from office of Mr Chaudhry, on 9 March, was contrary to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.
Organised under the auspices of the IBAHRI, an international delegation of jurists visited Pakistan in May and held discussions there with the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP); the Minister for Law, Justice and Human Rights; prominent lawyers; bar associations and journalists.
This was organised in direct response to President Musharraf summoning the CJP to his office to answer allegations of corruption, demanding the CJP’s resignation, and subsequently restraining the CJP from carrying out his judicial day-to-day functions then placing him incommunicado under house arrest for three days when he refused to resign.
Dr Phillip Tahmindjis, delegation member and IBA Programme Lawyer commented that, ‘The actions of President Musharraf represent a direct assault on the independence of the judiciary and are contrary to principles of procedural fairness.’
On the unprecedented protests by lawyers in support of the CJP and the rule of law Dr Tahmindjis said, ‘The police brutality against the protesters, as well as reporting restrictions placed on the media, breach fundamental human rights to freedom of expression and association. It is of the utmost importance that confidence in the judiciary be restored and we call upon President Musharraf to implement the recommendations in today’s report.’
The IBAHRI report entitled, The Struggle to Maintain an Independent Judiciary: A Report on the Attempt to Remove the Chief Justice of Pakistan, contains 18 recommendations including:
- The Chief Justice should be restored to his office.
- The allegations of misconduct against the Chief Justice should be referred to the appropriate authority, as determined by the Supreme Court to be dealt with according to law, fairly, expeditiously, transparently and without Executive interference.
- Action should be taken by the appropriate authorities to ensure that the police do not use objectionable levels of force against protestors. Unacceptable restraints should not be used to prevent people from protesting. The use of harassment, preventative arrest and detention to discourage and prevent peaceful protest is unacceptable.
- The executive should cease its interference with the freedom of the press in reporting on the issue of the Chief Justice.
- The government should initiate, as a matter of urgency, a wide-ranging enquiry with respect to ratifying the human rights treaties to which Pakistan is not yet a party.
Executive Summary: The Struggle to Maintain an Independent Judiciary: A Report on the Attempt to Remove the Chief Justice of Pakistan.
Full report: The Struggle to Maintain an Independent Judiciary: A Report on the Attempt to Remove the Chief Justice of Pakistan.
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