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Home » Lahore

HRCP marks Day of the Endangered Lawyer

January 24, 2020

LAHORE:The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) held a roundtable consultation at its secretariat to mark the tenth annual Day of the Endangered Lawyer, the focus of which is Pakistan this year. The consultation was attended by members of bar councils and associations, and civil society organisations.

Lawyer Asad Jamal, who moderated the session, explained why it was critical to discuss the threats faced by lawyers who defend human rights. HRCP Honorary Spokesperson I. A. Rehman underscored the need to document all such instances of threats to lawyers. Participants shared a range of experiences, from lawyers who said that they had been threatened openly by their own colleagues for representing clients, to those who had faced intimidation from state agency officials in cases related to torture or death in custody.

Politically sensitive cases also put lawyers at risk. Lawyer and digital rights activist Nighat Dad pointed out that ensuring lawyers’ security extended to their digital security: if this became compromised, it would immediately put clients at risk.

An important consensus was that women lawyers and lawyers from religious minorities were subjected to greater harassment, not only from male colleagues, but also from judges. Advocates Jalila Haider and Alia Malik recounted the number of instances in which they had been harassed in court or been threatened with physical violence.

Vice-chair of the Pakistan Bar Council Abid Saqi pointed to the structural discrimination existing in the Constitution and laws. He recommended that a permanent body be constituted to develop strategies for countering threats to lawyers handling sensitive cases, such as those related to blasphemy and forced conversion. He also agreed, among other things, to a proposal for establishing committees to counter the harassment of women in the legal profession.

HRCP Council member and senior lawyer Hina Jilani said that lawyers must engage with the state, and especially the judiciary, to sensitise them to such threats and the need to perform their due role. The participants agreed to hold a conference to follow up on the issues raised at today’s consultation in order to make the legal profession safer and fairer.

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