March 01, 2017

Statement of ABA President re: Recent Terrorist Attacks on Courts in Afghanistan and Pakistan

WASHINGTON, Mar. 1, 2017 — The American Bar Association condemns the terrorist attacks on the Supreme Court of Afghanistan in Kabul on February 7 and the District Court in Charsadda, Pakistan, on February 21. We extend our deepest sympathies to the families, friends and colleagues of those who were killed and wish a speedy recovery to the injured.

Courthouses – and judges, prosecutors, lawyers, court staff, litigants and witnesses – are too often the targets of terrorist attacks, precisely because of the ideals that they represent in society:  justice and the rule of law. These representatives of the justice system are essential to the democratic structure of any nation and warrant special attention and protection.

United Nations documents make clear the critical role of lawyers and judges. The U.N. Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers call on governments to ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference and to ensure that they are adequately safeguarded when their security is threatened.  The U.N. Basic Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary emphasize that states need to take appropriate measures to protect judges from threats or interferences from any quarter or for any reason and to ensure their security.

The challenges in Afghanistan and Pakistan are severe. In a statement issued on February 8, in the aftermath of the attack on the Supreme Court in Kabul, the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan noted a pattern of attacks against judicial authorities, including 74 documented attacks targeting judges, prosecutors and judicial staff, resulting in 89 dead and 214 injured since 2015. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers has voiced concerns about the safety and security of judges and others in Pakistan’s justice system. In a 2012 report, the U.N. Special Rapporteur noted that the judiciary, legal profession and prosecution services in Pakistan come under pressure from all kinds of public and private actors, including non-state actors such as extremist religious groups, insurgents and terrorists, and highlighted the lack of an institutionalized protection mechanism for judges and other actors of the justice system.

The ABA calls upon the governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of courts, judges, prosecutors, lawyers and others who play key roles in the justice system. We stand in solidarity with the judges, prosecutors, lawyers and all of those in Afghanistan and Pakistan who serve and champion justice and the rule of law.  

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