After repeated threats called to the attention of Pakistani authorities, attorney and human rights advocate Rashid Rehman was assassinated on May 7, 2014. Rehman was defense counsel for Junaid Hafeez, an adjunct lecturer at the Bahuddin Zakariya University, who had been detained on blasphemy charges for over a year. CCS called for immediate investigation of the unknown assailants and further governmental protection for counsel in controversial cases.
- Pakistan ‘blasphemy lawyer’ murdered (bbc.co.uk)
- Pakistan: Investigate Killing of Rights Lawyer (hrw.org)
- Pakistan is using its blasphemy code to silence opponents (independent.co.uk)
- Murder and ‘blasphemy’: Pakistan’s academy in danger (timeshighereducation.co.uk)
Prime Minister Nawab Sharif
Islamic Republic of Pakistan
President Mamnoon Hussain
Islamic Republic of Pakistan
May 23, 2014
We write concerning attorney and human rights advocate Rashid Rehman who was killed on Wednesday May 7, 2014.
According to reports, two unknown assailants entered Rehman’s office where he was meeting with two colleagues . The assailants fired multiple shots. Rehman was shot at least three times and died at the scene, while his colleagues were injured and taken to a hospital.
Rehman served as defense counsel for Junaid Hafeez, an adjunct lecturer at the Bahauddin Zakariya University, who has been detained on blasphemy charges for over a year. In the weeks leading up to his assassination, Rehman reported that he had receied multiple death threats, demanding that he drop his defense of Haffez. The threats reportedly motivated the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, where Rehman was a coordinator, to write to the Pakistani central government expressing concern for his safely. Rehman had taken up the case in 2013 when previous defense counsel withdrew after similar threats.
We are deeply concerned about the assassination of defense counsel for an imprisoned scholar. In addition to the deprivation of the right to life of the victim, and harm to the others injured, an attack on defense counsel deprives defendants of due process and fair trial. As Scholars at Risk has emphasized in their recent statement, where the defendant is a scholar detained for non-violent expressions of opinion, as in this case, this attack undermines academic freedom and sends a message of intimidation throughout the university community and society.
We urge you to immediately investigate this murder and hold the perpetrators accountable. We also urge you to protect anyone serving as counsel for defendants who have been threatened, as was the case here, by all of the governmental powers available to Pakistan’s central and local authorities.
Sincerely,Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich,
Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
New Garden Town