News Release

PAKISTAN: Thousands of Lawyers Beaten, Detained by Police

Statement of Carmen D. Hernandez, President, National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers

Washington, DC­ (November 6, 2007) – The Constitution of the United States was ordained by our founders to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.” The Preamble to the 1973 Constitution of Pakistan declares that “the independence of the judiciary shall be fully secured" and is “[d]edicated to the preservation of democracy achieved by the unremitting struggle of the people against oppression and tyranny.” Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s “Proclamation of Emergency” holding Pakistan’s constitution “in abeyance” was declared illegal and contrary to the rule of law by a majority of the justices of the supreme court just before their resignations.

As criminal defense lawyers in the United States of America, when we fight to preserve the constitutional rights guaranteed to the people, we do so by presenting arguments in a court of law. Over the past few days, we watched in dismay as General Musharraf suspended the rule of law, accepted resignations from the judges of the Supreme Court, who resigned in protest to his illegal actions, seized control of public and privately-owned broadcast programming, and jailed hundreds of lawyers who have protested the destruction of their constitutional government. NACDL applauds the position of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice when she states that “the best path for Pakistan is to quickly return to a constitutional path . . .” Lawyers are the first line of defense against injustice, totalitarianism, and tyranny in Pakistan as in the United States.

We join Pakistan’s Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry in his statement, “Nothing is more important than a sense of justice and security to a citizen. Whether it's a question of protection of fundamental rights, enforcement of contract, accessibility of public entitlement or property rights, the common man wants to have a feeling of complete security by having unfettered access to justice.”

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The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal justice system.