Pakistan urged to investigate death plot against leading human rights lawyer

Pakistani authorities must place the highest priority on protecting a leading human rights lawyer whose life is in serious danger, Amnesty International said after it was revealed that the country’s security forces had allegedly drawn up plans to kill her. The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) alerted the organization to the plot against its founder, the internationally acclaimed lawyer Asma Jahangir. “While Asma Jahangir’s work as a human rights defender has sadly made her no stranger to death threats in the past, this seems to be the first time that the country’s security forces intended to go ahead and kill her,” said Pollyanna Truscott, Amnesty International’s South Asia Director. “Any such attempts on the life of a human rights defender are an attack not only on that individual, but on Pakistan’s entire human rights community.”“The Pakistani authorities must promptly launch a full, impartial investigation into this alleged death plot, leaving no stone unturned – all security agencies, including the Inter-Services Intelligence, must be investigated.”Killings of human rights defenders in Pakistan have been on the rise over the last year, with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) implicated in many instances – including in last year’s prominent abduction and killing of journalist Saleem Shahzad. Since learning of the plot against her, Jahangir has not moved from her home. Besides founding the HRCP, Jahangir is a Supreme Court advocate and President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan. She also served as UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Arbitrary and Summary Executions from 1998-2004 and the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief from 2004 to 2010.During a mission to Pakistan earlier this week, UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay visited Jahangir and expressed concern about the death plot. Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has given assurances that the authorities had provided Jahangir with extra security. “Pakistan’s authorities have a duty to protect human rights defenders like Asma Jahangir, but they must go further than that and bring to justice all those who are responsible for the threats and attacks,” said Truscott.Amnesty International is calling for all those suspected of carrying out attacks on human rights defenders to be brought to justice in trials that meet international fair trial standards and without recourse to the death penalty.