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USCIRF Mourns Death of Leading Pakistani Human Rights Defender

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 13, 2018

USCIRF Mourns Death of Leading Pakistani Human Rights Defender

USCIRF Chairman Mark says Ms. Jahangir “will always be remembered as a fearless advocate for human rights”

WASHINGTON, DC -- The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) was deeply saddened to learn of the death on Sunday of Ms. Asma Jahangir, a leading human rights defender in Pakistan and a former United Nations expert on freedom of religion or belief.

“Ms. Jahangir was an outspoken critic of the Pakistani government’s misuse of blasphemy laws, particularly targeting Ahmadis and Christians,” said USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark. “She did this despite great risk to her own personal safety. She will always be remembered as a fearless advocate for human rights both in Pakistan and around the globe.”

Ms. Jahangir died on February 10 in her native Pakistan. She was 66. She served in various capacities as a human rights expert for the United Nations, most recently as UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran since 2016.  She previously served as Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief (2004 to 2010) and Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions (1998 to 2004).

As a lawyer in Pakistan, Ms. Jahangir was the first woman admitted to the Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Council and was the first female President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan. She brought many cases to Pakistan’s courts on behalf of underrepresented communities, including religious minorities and women. She also co-founded the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and the Women’s Action Forum.

She was imprisoned and placed under house arrest several times in response to her work as a human rights activist.  In 2007, USCIRF condemned the house arrest of Ms. Jahangir by the government of Pakistan during her tenure as UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.

“The death of Ms. Jahangir is a loss to the global human rights community,” continued Chairman Mark. “Her tireless advocacy on behalf of religious minorities in Pakistan and around the world will never be forgotten.”

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The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, the first of its kind in the world. USCIRF reviews the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations abroad and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the Congressional leadership of both political parties. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at Media@USCIRF.gov or Isaac Six, Associate Director of Congressional Affairs (ISix@USCIRF.gov +1-202-786-0606).