[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour [official website] called on Pakistan to restore judicial independence in comments to AFP Wednesday, saying that an independent judiciary is just as important as free elections to a democracy. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf dismissed 14 Supreme Court judges, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry [JURIST news archive], in the wake of his November 3 declaration of a state of emergency [JURIST report], replacing them with lower court judges seen by many to be more loyal to the president. The ousted judges say they still face heavy restrictions on their movement [JURIST report], despite government assurances to the contrary. Arbour said that:
the main target of this entire enterprise was a frontal attack on the judicial branch of government and that is an enormous setback for democracy and constitutionalism.
Arbour also said the that emergency rule hampered protests supporting the reinstatement of judicial independence.
Earlier this month, Arbour expressed alarm [JURIST report] at the suspension of fundamental rights under Musharraf's emergency rule, saying that a state of emergency "should only be used to deal with a dire security threat to the nation, not to undermine the integrity and independence of the judiciary." AFP has more.