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Public Statement: Pakistan (January 2019)

The Law Society of Ontario expresses grave concern about the death threats against lawyer Saif ul-Malook.
Saif ul-Malook is a defence lawyer in Pakistan. He recently represented Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who, at the trial level, was convicted of blasphemy by Pakistan’s lower courts and spent eight years on death row. Saif ul-Malook represented Asia Bibi on her appeal before the Supreme Court. On October 31, 2018, the Supreme Court overturned Asia Bibi’s sentence and acquitted her of all charges. News of Asia Bibi’s acquittal sparked violent protests by the far-right Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan party. According to credible reports, Saif ul-Malook began to receive death threats in connection with representing Asia Bibi.

Reports indicate that Saif ul-Malook fled to the Netherlands to seek refuge on November 3, 2018. Saif ul-Malook remains in the Netherlands as a matter of safety.

The Law Society is seriously concerned by credible reports of Saif ul-Malook’s situation and urges His Excellency to comply with Pakistan’s obligations under international human rights laws, including the United Nations’ Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers and Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
 
Article 16 of the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers states:
Governments shall ensure that lawyers (a) are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference; (b) are able to travel and to consult with their clients freely both within their own country and abroad; and (c) shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economics or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards and ethics.
 
Article 17 states:
Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities.
 
Article 18 states:
Lawyers shall not be identified with their clients or their clients' causes as a result of discharging their functions.
 
Article 23 states:
Lawyers like other citizens are entitled to freedom of expression, belief, association and assembly. In particular, they shall have the right to take part in public discussion of matters concerning the law, the administration of justice and the promotion and protection of human rights and to join or form local, national or international organizations and attend their meetings, without suffering professional restrictions by reason of their lawful action or their membership in a lawful organization.
 
Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 9 states:
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
The Law Society urges the Government of Pakistan to:
  1. ensure that all lawyers in Pakistan are adequately safeguarded by the authorities such that they are able to carry out their professional duties and activities free from intimidation, hindrance, harassment, improper interference, the threat of criminalization, or other human rights violations;
  1. ensure that lawyers shall not suffer, or be threatened with, prosecution or administrative, economic, or other sanctions for any action taken in accordance with recognized professional duties, standards, and ethics;
  1. ensure that all lawyers in Pakistan can carry out their professional duties and activities without fear of reprisals, physical violence or other human rights violations; and
  1. ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments.