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Pakistan: UN experts welcome reinstatement of Chief Justice

Pakistan: UN experts welcome reinstatement of Chief Justice

Two United Nations experts today welcomed the reinstatement of Pakistani Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry by the Supreme Court after being suspended this March by President Pervez Musharraf over unspecified allegations of “misuse of office.”

The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Leandro Despouy, and the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on the situation of human rights defenders, Hina Jilani, said in a statement that they see the 20 July majority decision of the Supreme Court as “a significant step towards restoring the rule of law, but still wish to stress the importance of keeping the independence of the judiciary.”

According to the experts, Mr. Chaudry’s suspension, which was widely seen as an attack on the independence of the judiciary, sparked demonstrations at which police used excessive force.

They noted in a March statement that several judges resigned and lawyers in various parts of the country boycotted court proceedings in sign of protest against the suspension and against police abuses against demonstrators.

The two experts reminded the Government of provisions enshrined in the country’s Constitution that establish a specific procedure as a safeguard to guarantee the independence of the judiciary and to protect judges from undue interference by the executive branch. “In the present case, it is widely believed that the Chief Justice was suspended without respect for these procedures,” they said.

“The circumvention of the Constitution constitutes a serious interference of the executive with the independence of the judiciary. This threatens the proper functioning of the country’s judicial system.”

They also expressed concern about the “excessive force used against peaceful demonstrators” which they said runs contrary to international standards guaranteeing the right to peaceful assembly for the purpose of promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms.