Human Rights Groups Call on Bush Administration to Stand Up for Pakistani Judges and Media Freedom
NEW YORK–Today Human Rights First joined with 11 other leading human rights organizations in a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In the letter, the groups expressed deep concern that the Bush Administration has not called unequivocally for President Pervez Musharraf to reinstate dismissed judges and lift restrictions on the media. The formal end of martial law on December 15 did not implement these crucial measures. The groups met with Secretary Rice on December 10 to discuss Pakistan, among other topics.
“The Bush administration must acknowledge that the crisis in Pakistan did not end with the lifting of martial law and announcement of elections,” said letter signatory Maureen Byrnes, the executive director of Human Rights First. Byrnes traveled to Pakistan last week, meeting with lawyers, judges, human rights activists, and government ministers.
The letter, the full text of which follows below, reads in part: “The removal of independent-minded judges has rendered free and fair elections impossible, while strict curbs on media further impede accurate reporting on the political and electoral processes. It does not make sense to call for free and fair elections without addressing these concerns.”
On December 15, Musharraf formally lifted martial law. However, Musharraf also permanently replaced the dismissed judges and barred judicial review of his actions. Other orders and amendments imposed under martial law remain in effect, allowing for military trials of civilians and imposing prison sentences and fines for media criticism of government officials. An unknown number of judges and lawyers also remain in detention or under house arrest.
The signatories to the letter were Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, Freedom House, The Carter Center, Global Rights, International Justice Mission, International League for Human Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, the Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights, Minnesota Advocates for Human Rights, and the Robert F Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights.
See the original letter here: /wp-content/uploads/pdf/071221-hrd-joint-