The CLA covers the interests of 53 countries comprising the Commonwealth of Nations. The circumstances for the legal profession and the rule of law in those countries vary enormously. Even so our laws have similar heritage which is enshrined in the Commonwealth Charter: upholding the rule of law and everything necessary to do that.
United Nations Sustainable Goal 16 states “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels”
It is a fundamental right of people to have access to law and it is an equally fundamental right that lawyers should be free to assist their clients, especially so when that may be unpopular generally, or at odds with Government views, or in any other circumstances.
One country where the lawyers must be particularly courageous to carry out their work is Pakistan, and from my experience over the last 30 years, they are very courageous.
The President of the Baluchistan Bar Association, Mr Bilal Anwar Kasi was assassinated in Quetta on the 8th August. He was driving in his vehicle when an assassin on a motorbike killed him. Mr Anwar’s body was taken to a hospital in Quetta where a large group of lawyers mourning his murder, as well as journalists and others, had gathered at the emergency department to accompany his body on its journey to its final resting place.
As they were there showing their respect, a suicide bomber with an explosive belt detonated his device causing massive destruction, death and injury. The news report from Pakistan referred to an entire generation of lawyers being wiped out in the close knit legal community.
Various terrorist organisations have claimed responsibility and, more worryingly for our colleagues, said they will continue to carry out such attacks.
Lawyers acting in the course of their business or mourning the death of their colleagues are not fighting in a war or suppressing people, or posing any threat that needs to be dealt with. Indeed mostly it is the lawyers who would be representing people charged with terrorist offences who are brought before the court.
CLA has often reflected upon and made representations concerning past anti-terrorism law where the balance between their necessity and human rights can be blurred, increasingly so.
We record here most emphatically our outrage and disgust at the cowardly and perplexing attack. We also give our deepest sympathy for the families and friends and colleagues of all those who were murdered.
Our colleagues in Pakistan have been attacked in the past and have always come back to continue to practice their vital role in the justice system. They will again, more difficult as it becomes, and have our very sincere respect for their courage.
Pakistani lawyers staged a nationwide strike on Tuesday after dozens of colleagues were slain in a suicide bombing that killed at least 70 people at a hospital in the South Western city of Quetta.
“How weak and pathetic are these people who target hospitals, where women and children, where patients, go to get treatment?” Ashtar Ausaf Ali, Pakistan’s attorney general, said on Tuesday at a protest outside the Supreme Court in the capital Islamabad. Supreme Court Bar President Ali Zafar called for the government to do more to protect lawyers.