HRW - Pakistan's Crackdown on Lawyers and Judges

Scores of lawyers, judges and other government critics remain detained in Pakistan despite the lifting of the state of emergency on December 15, Human Rights Watch said today in a new report. President Pervez Musharraf’s dismantling of an independent judiciary and the crackdown on the vocal lawyers? movement mean free and fair elections, scheduled for January 8, 2008, will be impossible. The 84-page report, “Destroying Legality: Pakistan’s Crackdown on Lawyers and Judges,” presents eyewitness accounts of police violence, arbitrary arrests, and mistreatment of detained lawyers across Pakistan since November 3, 2007. The report details police beatings of lawyers peacefully protesting government policies from within the grounds of Pakistan?s high courts. It is the most detailed account to date of the November crackdown, showing how Musharraf used the emergency as an excuse to disempower the judiciary, the legal profession and civil society in the name of fighting terrorism and Islamic extremists. “The lawyers’ movement had done more in eight months to challenge the pillars of military rule than the political opposition had done in eight years,” said Ali Dayan Hasan, South Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Musharraf’s crackdown on legal institutions is a huge setback for human rights and the rule of law in Pakistan.”

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