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APF mourns the loss of 'human rights giant'

Graphic: Asma Jahangir at a UN press briefing

The APF has joined with human rights defenders around the world to express its deep sadness at the passing of Asma Jahangir.


The APF has joined with human rights defenders around the world to express its deep sadness at the passing of Asma Jahangir.

A tireless human rights activist and lawyer, Ms Jahangir committed her life to advocating for those on the margins of society, especially women, religious minorities and the poor.

"She was a powerful and determined voice for justice and equality," said Kieren Fitzpatrick, Director of the APF secretariat.

"Her advocacy for human rights in Pakistan, across the Asia Pacific and on the international stage was extraordinary."

Asma Jahangir was a former President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan and a former Chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a non-governmental organisation.

At the time of her passing, she was the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran.

From 1998 to July 2004, she was the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and from August 2004 to July 2010, the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.


Asma Jahangir address the UN Human Rights Council

"No amount of pressure will deter me from representing women in distress. It has been my life mission. Til the last breath, I will stand by them."

Tweet by Asma Jahangir, 19 June 2017


A pro-democracy activist, Ms Jahangir was imprisoned in 1983 and put under house arrest in 2007.

She worked closely with her sister Hina Jilani on many endeavours and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.

In 2014, Ms Jahangir told AFP news agency she had seen changes in the perception of human rights in Pakistan.

"There was a time that human rights was not even an issue in this country," she said. "Then prisoners' rights became an issue."

"Women's rights was thought of as a Western concept. Now people do talk about women's rights."

Ms Jahangir was 66 when she passed away, having suffered a cardiac arrest.

Reflecting on her contribution

"We have lost a human rights giant … Asma was brilliant, deeply principled, courageous and kind … She will not be forgotten."
António Guterres, UN Secretary-General

"She was a legendary human rights defender: pioneering, determined, calm, courageous – and a lovely human being."
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

"Exemplary lawyer, human rights icon, pro-democracy champion, friend and mentor par excellence, and a brave comrade of the poor and the disadvantaged."
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan

"A saviour of democracy and human rights … The best tribute to her is to continue her fight for human rights and democracy."
Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize winner

Asma Jahangir's career

  • Trained as a lawyer and worked in Pakistan's Supreme Court from age 30
  • A critic of the military establishment
  • Jailed in 1983 for pro-democracy activities
  • Put under house arrest in 2007 for opposing military leader's removal of Supreme Court Chief Justice
  • Co-founder of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and of the first free legal aid centre in Pakistan
  • Co-founder of the Women's Action Forum, set up to oppose law that reduced a woman's testimony in court to half that of a man's
  • First female leader of Pakistan's Supreme Court Bar Association
  • Winner of numerous awards, including the UNESCO/Bilbao prize for the promotion of a culture of human rights and the French Legion of Honour
  • Served as UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; and on the situation of human rights in Iran

Date: 15 February 2018


Image credits

  1. Asma Jahangir at a UN press briefing - UN Geneva-Jean-Marc Ferré, Flickr; http://bit.ly/2F4rP6U
  2. Asma Jahangir address the UN Human Rights Council - UN Geneva-Jean-Marc Ferré, Flickr; http://bit.ly/2GK8ZPK