"The independence of the judicial system in Pakistan should be reinforced as a matter of priority so as not to lose the gains from the democratic transition," U.N. Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, Gabriela Knaul, said in a statement on Tuesday after completing a 11-day mission to the country.
Working in an unpaid capacity, independent experts, or special rapporteurs, were appointed by the Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC) to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. Knaul's mission was the first one in 13 years to Pakistan by an independent expert of the Council.
While in Pakistan, the Special Rapporteur met the country's Chief Justice as well as senior government officials, judges, lawyers, academics, members of professional organizations, and representatives of civil society, the U.N. and international organizations.
Existence of two superior courts in the Constitution of Pakistan is "problematic and leaves space for interpretations which might be contradicting," the expert noted, referring to the country's Supreme Court and the Federal Shariat Court.
She also voiced concern about the number and nature of reported cases of serious threats and attacks of judges and lawyers, noting that physical security is an essential condition for all actors in the judicial system to be able to carry out their duties without hindrance or interference.
"The judiciary must be properly equipped and resourced," Knaul stressed. "Judges, prosecutors and lawyers lack adequate facilities, such as electricity, water and sanitation, offices, waiting rooms, libraries, and support staff, especially at the level of lower courts," she noted.
Mrs. Gabriela Knaul took her functions as Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers on 1 August 2009. She has more than 10 years of experience as a judge in Brazil and is an expert in criminal justice, particularly on issues of due process, sentencing and execution of sentences, as well as the administration of judicial systems.
She has worked with prison directors as a judicial supervisor to ensure the respect and protection of the human rights of prisoners and detainees in a variety of detention environments, including high-security prisons. Prior to being appointed as a Special Rapporteur, Mrs. Knaul worked with the National Judicial Council of Brazil on a project to enhance the functioning of the Judiciary, in particular the independence and impartiality of judges, but also the effectiveness of the judicial system.
As Special Rapporteur, she visited Bulgaria, Colombia, Mexico, Mozambique and Romania on official missions and has participated in several academic and professional events of judges, magistrates and lawyers in Amsterdam and The Hague (the Netherlands), Dakar (Senegal), Geneva (Switzerland), Istanbul (Turkey), Kiev (the Ukraine), Male (Maldives), Mar del Plata (Argentina), Montevideo (Uruguay), Praia City (Cape Verde), Seoul (Republic of Korea), and Tegucigalpa (Honduras).