Pakistan: Amnesty demands restoration of deposed judge

Human rights situation will remain bleak if coalition fails to act within deadline

Amnesty International today made a call to the new Pakistan government to immediately reinstate around 60 senior judges removed by President Pervez Musharraf during emergency rule back in November.

The urgency follows the ruling coalition’s decision to set a deadline of 30 April to make a decision on the issue.

The original move to depose the higher court judges was in defiance of the country’s constitution and saw them all replaced by individuals loyal to the President.

Amnesty International said:

“The restoration of the judges is a necessary step toward ensuring an independent judiciary. Judges are in a unique position to challenge human rights policies, overturn abusive laws and protect individuals from violations.

“Without an effective, independent judiciary, the human rights situation will remain bleak in Pakistan.

“Unless all deposed judges are reinstated, future presidents and military leaders may feel justified in removing judges whenever they are unhappy with courts’ decisions.”

Amnesty International urges the Pakistan government and national parliament to formulate urgently a clear mechanism for appointing higher court judges, with a view to restoring an independent judiciary in line with UN Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary. The mechanism should ensure that judges are free from conflicts of interest, intimidation or undue influence and have security of tenure. They must not be viewed as expendable tools by those in power.

Background

On 3 November 2007 President Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency rule in his capacity as Army Chief and removed around 60 judges from the Supreme Court and provincial High Courts. The Supreme Court was about to decide his eligibility for another term as President while also being Chief of Army staff. Among other things, the Court had vigorously pursed the cases of hundreds of “disappeared individuals”, whose cases have been sidelined by President Musharraf’s hand-picked replacement judges.

For more information, please see the report: Pakistan Repairing the damage: Ensuring robust human rights safeguards (AI Index ASA 33/001/2008)

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