From Law Society President Anna Fung, QC
November 28, 2007
Today in Pakistan, lawyers and judges are fighting for the rule of law, for the independence of the judiciary and, in some cases, for their lives. Under an emergency proclamation, the government has suspended the constitution, dismissed the chief justice and 40 other judges and detained more than 3,000 lawyers.
For the past three weeks, Pakistan's lawyers have been protesting these attacks on the country's legal system by dressing in their black business suits and marching to the courthouses in major cities.
Around the world, law societies and bar associations are urging their members to show their support for Pakistan's lawyers by wearing black to work on Friday, November 30. I will be wearing a black suit on Friday and I ask you to do the same.
Recently, UBC President Stephen Toope forwarded me an email from Asma Jahangir, a Pakistani lawyer and colleague of Professor Toope. She chairs Pakistan's Human Rights Commission. It brought home to me the peril that country's lawyers face in standing up for basic rights we take for granted. Here is an excerpt from Ms. Jahangir's message:
I am fortunate to be under house arrest while my colleagues are suffering.... A large number of judges of superior courts are under arrest. Thousands of lawyers are imprisoned, beaten and tortured....
Muneer A Malik, the former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association and leader of the lawyers' movement ... is being tortured and is under the custody of the military intelligence. Tariq Mahmood, former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association, was imprisoned in Adiala jail. No one was allowed to see him and it is reported that he has been shifted to an unknown place. Ali Ahmed Kurd, former Vice Chair of the Pakistan Bar Council, is in the custody of military intelligence and being kept at an undisclosed place. Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan, President of the Supreme Court Bar, is being kept in Adiayala jail in solitary confinement.
This month, the Law Society, along with the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Vancouver Holocaust Education Society and the German Consulate, has been hosting Lawyers Without Rights -- a display that documents the fate of Jewish lawyers under the Nazis. Last week, we held a public forum in conjunction with the display. Speakers included lawyers from Israel and Germany as well as Professor Toope. There, we heard about the need to protect the rule of law, not just in countries such as Pakistan, but in Canada as well. The display is now at the University of Victoria and a public roundtable will take place there on Thursday, November 28.
While more than 300 people heard our message at the public forum and thousands more toured the display, I believe we must do more to show our support for an independent judicial system free from political interference. Wearing something black on Friday is the least we can do to support our legal colleagues.
Register for the Victoria roundtable
Lawyers Without Rights, a free public roundtable, will be presented this Thursday, November 29 at the University of Victoria.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
University of Victoria
The Lawyers Without Rights public roundtable is presented in association with an internationally acclaimed exhibit that chronicles the fate of German Jewish lawyers before and during the Holocaust. The exhibit will open at the University of Victoria November 28 and run through to December 9.
To register for Victoria roundtable, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-903-5300. You can also register at the event.