The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and its global SOS-Torture Network are saddened by the death of one of the world’s leading and finest human rights advocates.
Asma Jahangir, leading figure of the democracy and human rights movement in Pakistan and globally, died unexpectedly of a heart attack in Lahore on 11 February 2018 at the age of 66.
The thoughts of the OMCT, its executive council and staff, are with her loved ones, her husband, daughters and son. Our thoughts are also with her sister Hina Jilani – our colleague, friend and president at the OMCT – and with the many friends and fellow activists whose life and work she profoundly impacted and inspired.
It is impossible to do justice and pay due tribute to the many ways in which Asma has shaped the human rights movement and stood with those who needed help. From a young age she opposed dictatorship and military rule, defended democratic rights, human rights and women rights.
She worked as a Supreme Court advocate in key human rights cases, and was the co-founder of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan as well as, jointly with her sister, of the first legal aid center for women in Pakistan.
Due to her work as a leading rights activist, Asma was subjected to arbitrary detention, house arrest and repeated death threats. Despite these threats, Asma continued to stand up against violations, intolerance, and discrimination and to uphold human dignity.
Many in the global SOS-Torture Network who had the privilege to work and know her knew they could always rely on her support, advice and count on her principled positions. As the United Nations special rapporteur on arbitrary and summary executions, and later as the UN special rapporteur of freedom of religion or belief, she remarkably shaped our understanding of these mandates as protection mandates and provided invaluable support to the investigation of some of the worst human rights violations around the world.
The world anti-torture movement will remember her as a fierce defender of human rights and dignity. A defender who left us far too early, but standing out for the firm belief and proof that we can bring light to darkness.
This is a moment to mourn the loss of a dear friend and colleague whose legacy, however, will continue to inspire and shine on the human rights movement.