Pakistan/Kenya/Honduras/Turkey/UK: “Let’s Kill All The Lawyers”

August 11, 2016

Bilal Kasi, a prominent lawyer and president of the Baluchistan Bar Association, was recently shot on his way to court. He was taken to Quetta’s government-run hospital where he was pronounced dead. According to officials, shortly afterward, a suicide bomber in Pakistan killed at least 70 people and wounded more than 100 in an attack on mourners gathered at a hospital in Quetta.  Rehmat Saleh Baloch, the provincial health minister, said that due to the extent of injuries, the death toll could rise.  The bomber struck as the mourners, mostly lawyers and journalists, crowded into the emergency department to express their condolences and grief for Kasi. The suicide attack appeared to be pre-planned to target Kasi’s mourners, according to a spokesman for the Baluchistan government.

Ali Zafar, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan, said the bombing is an attack on justice. “We (lawyers) have been targeted because we always raise our voice for people’s rights and for democracy … Lawyers will not just protest this attack but will also prepare a long-term plan of action.”

On August 10, the same day Honduras’ bar association marked its 100th year anniversary, three lawyers were killed. The Honduran Human Rights Commission said the deaths were the latest spate of fatal violence against political activists, journalists, human rights defenders, and legal representatives that has seen over 102 lawyers were murdered in Honduras between 2010 and March of 2016.

In July, Willie Kimani was killed and dumped in the Oldonyo Sabuk River in Kilimabogo, alongside his client and taxi driver. Mr. Kimani was working for the International Justice Mission, a US legal charity which focuses on cases of police abuse of power. He had been representing his client in a complaint against a police officer who had allegedly shot him during a traffic stop in 2015. “We do not understand why an innocent advocate who is simply a mouth piece of his client will eventually pay the ultimate price on a case [in] which he had no personal interest,” said Kenya Magistrates and Judges Association Secretary General Bryan Khaemba. “He was simply conducting his professional duties.”

Last November, prominent Kurdish lawyer, Tahir Elci was killed when confrontation erupted after he spoke at a news conference. The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, or H.D.P., condemned the attack as a “planned assassination.” The party stated that “in the place left by Tahir Elci, thousands more Tahir Elcis will carry on the work in the struggle for law and justice.”  They also called on people to “raise their voices” to protest the killing.

Phil Shiner, a prominent U.K. attorney from Public Interest Lawyers, said that every day someone would call his law firm with threats and abuse after he prosecuted British Army soldiers for abusing prisoners. Shiner said that the “bullying” wouldn’t put him off pursuing what he describes as justice.

Are these threats and attacks to silence lawyers merely an extension of violence advocated against them for centuries?

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