Tributes have been paid to prominent human rights defender and UN Special Rapporteur Asma Jahangir, who died on February 11, 2018.
A national of Pakistan, Jahangir was internationally recognised for her contribution to human rights and her extensive work on women’s rights, the protection of religious minorities, and the elimination of bonded labour.
She was the current UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, having served in the position since 2016.
She had previously been the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions from 1998 to 2004, and the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief from 2004 to 2010.
UN Special Rapporteurs and independent experts examine and report back on a specific human rights theme or a country situation, and are appointed by the Human Rights Council in Geneva – the highest UN governmental body on all human rights matters.
These positions are unpaid and honorary and experts are not chosen from among UN staff.
Jahangir was also elected President of the Supreme Court Bar Association of Pakistan and Chairperson of the country’s Human Rights Commission.
UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said in a statement that Jahangir was a “human rights giant” and would not be forgotten, whilst offering condolences to her family, friends and colleagues within the UN and civil society.
He added: “Asma was brilliant, deeply principled, courageous and kind.”
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which supports Special Rapporteurs and independent experts with their mandate, similarly tweeted: “She was a legendary human rights defender: pioneering, determined, calm, courageous – and a lovely human being.”
Fellow Pakistani activist Mukhtar Mai also offered her thoughts following the passing of her role model and friend.
Mai is a survivor of a gang rape as a form of honour revenge and spent 14 years fighting for legal justice.
Mai recalled how Jahangir supported her throughout her struggle through re-trials and acquittals to get her attackers, and the Jirga (local tribal council) who ordered the attack on her, convicted.
Jahangir organised for Pakistani politician and lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan to represent Mai in the Supreme Court, and spent a decade campaigning at rallies for her case and for other women’s rights across the country, as well as keeping in frequent contact with Mai to encourage her continued bravery.
In an article penned in memory of the defender of human and women’s rights, Mai said: “Tell me an issue in Pakistan that Asma baji has not raised her voice for?
“Not just women’s rights or minority’s rights, she speaks for everyone.
“Wherever you look, there she would be, at the very forefront, shouting for justice.
“Her mission might continue, but her voice is lost.
“Who will dare to speak for us now?”
Read More: Dr Sue Onslow, Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and Associate of the LSE IDEAS Africa Programme, reflects on the impact Nelson Mandela had on the Commonwealth