Rule of Law Suspended in PakistanGeneral Pervez Musharraf has been Pakistan’s army chief as well as president since seizing power in a 1999 coup, despite prohibition by the country’s Constitution against the military chief holding political office. In response to challenges by Musharraf’s opponent and others, Pakistan’s Supreme Court undertook examination of the legitimacy of his re-election in October. However, before the courts could announce a decision, Musharraf, in his role as army chief, declared a state of national emergency.
With that November 3 declaration, Musharraf suspended the Constitution, dissolved the federal cabinet, and dismissed justices unwilling to sign an oath. More than half of Pakistan’s sitting judges have been dismissed. Hundreds of lawyers have been placed under house arrest or detained and denied bail. Human rights, free and fair elections, and the rule of law have been widely suppressed.
This petition supports and responds to a petition issued by Dean Harold Hongju Koh of the Yale Law School (http://www.law.yale.edu/news/5866.htm). Participants are encouraged to join that petition as well.
Petition in Support of Pakistan’s LawyersWe, the undersigned members of the University of Minnesota Law School community--deans, faculty, student body, staff, and alumni--as well as the greater University of Minnesota community hereby declare our unequivocal opposition to the violent suppression of the rule of law and human rights by General Pervez Musharraf’s government in Pakistan.* His government’s attacks on the judiciary, the legal profession, and legitimate political dissent are both unjustified and unacceptable. By declaring a state of emergency; dismissing over 60% of Pakistan’s sitting judges; detaining or placing under house arrest thousands of lawyers, opposition activists, journalists, and other law abiding citizens; and denying bail, General Musharraf has launched an assault on the very foundations of rule of law and accountability. Fair elections in January will be impossible under such conditions.
We stand in solidarity with Pakistan’s legal community, which has a long and fine tradition of supporting justice, democracy, and accountability, especially in times of difficulty and crisis. We hope for a peaceful end to the state of emergency, the release of arrested lawyers and judges, the restoration of Pakistan’s judiciary, and a return to the rule of law. We call for the international community to maintain pressure on the government of Pakistan to restore the Constitution and hold free and fair elections as soon as possible.
Richard W. Painter
Laura J. Cooper
Mary Lou Fellows
* The views reflected in this petition are those of the individuals and not those of the University or the Law School.