The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI) condemns unequivocally the murder of lawyer Samiullah Afridi on 17 March 2015, who was reportedly shot dead in an attack by unidentified assailants while on his way home in Peshawar, Pakistan.
In 2013, Samiullah Afridi stated that he had received several death threats from militant groups and various organisations. For his own safety, and that of his family, he fled Pakistan briefly. It is believed he was targeted due to his involvement representing Pakistani doctor Shakil Afridi (no relation), who, it is alleged, ran a false vaccination campaign aimed at gathering DNA samples from the Abbottabad compound where the then wanted leader of al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, was in hiding. It is believed that this DNA campaign assisted the United States intelligence agency, the CIA, in their search for, and subsequent assassination, of bin Laden. The ensuing trial of Dr Afridi concluded in May 2012, with him being sentenced to 33 years in prison. Commentators are convinced that Dr Afridi was not convicted on the DNA samples allegations, but rather as punishment for what is perceived as aiding the CIA. The sentence was overturned in 2013. He is currently awaiting a new trial.
In 2014, Mr Afridi stopped representing Dr Afridi due to the numerous death threats he had received.
IBAHRI Co-Chair Hans Corell commented: ‘The IBAHRI is extremely shocked and saddened by the reported death of Mr Samiullah Afridi. The attack on lawyers in Pakistan in the course of their profession is a matter of grave concern. It weakens the justice system which should guarantee the in dependence of lawyers in the discharge of their professional duties without any improper restrictions, pressures or interference. These developments are particularly worrying in light of recent reports of the attempted murder of human rights lawyer Shahbaz Gormani in December of last year.’