‘What do you call an Indian in Pakistan’? This sounds like the opening sentence of a bad joke but the reality is far more serious and sinister.
The punchline appears to be ‘a spy’ according to the Pakistani authorities as evidenced by the plethora of cases involving Indian nationals who have inadvertently strayed, or those who have ended up on Pakistani territory under duress.
The modus operandi used by the Pakistani authorities in the case of Mr Kulbhushan Jadhav accusing him of being a ‘spy’ is not unique neither is the alleged involvement of disparate groups in Iran based in handing over Mr Kulbhushan Jadhav to the Pakistani authorities.
One of our first set of instructions in 2011 concerned Mr Satinder Pal Singh from Pathankot, Punjab in India. Mr Singh a migrant worker in the construction industry travelled to the UAE in around 2002. He worked in the UAE for five years before he decided to return to India.
Mr Singh somewhat naively decided, to travel to India overland via Muscat in Oman and on to Iran. He reached Iran in 2008, he was stopped by the Iranian border control authorities. He maintains that he showed his passport and supporting documents which clearly stated that he was an Indian national. Nevertheless, the Iranian authorities handed him over to the Pakistani authorities. Neither the Iranian and/or the Pakistani authorities notified the Indian Government of their respective actions despite their duty and obligations to do so under international law and UN Conventions.
Mr Singh was unlawfully detained in the now infamous Kot Lakphat Prison in Lahore, Pakistan without a trial and/or conviction for over five years before the case was drawn to our attention by an Indian prisoner released earlier.
Following the intervention of Justice Upheld and upon application to the Lahore High Court, an Order dated 3rd of November, 2011 made by by Chief Justice Ijaz Ahmad Chaudhary, was granted ordering the release of Mr Singh
along with thirty-two other Indian nationals unlawfully detained in Pakistan for several years, in some cases they had been incarcerated for a decade.
In January 2013, Chamel Singh, another Indian national also convicted of ‘espionage’ and was serving a five year sentence died in Pakistan prison custody in unexplained circumstances:
Then there was the capture, torture, detention of Indian national Sarabjit Singh by the Pakistani authorities. He too was accused of being an Indian ‘spy’. Sarabjit Singh spent twenty-five years in Kot Lakphat Prison. The first decade of his incarceration was in solitary confinement. Consular access and his right to independent legal advice was denied: (http://www.freesarabjitsingh.com )
His case was politicised from the outset and at the height of the elections in Pakistan in 2013. In April 2013, Sarabjit Singh was murdered in prison allegedly by inmates who conveniently happen to have knives and bricks to commit the murder whilst in custody in supposedly, a high security prison. The assailants have yet to be tried and convicted.
Shortly after Sarabjit Singh’s murder, the Pakistani authorities announced that an inquiry will take place into his death. We were invited to attend the same to make submissions to the tribunal. Four years forward since Sarabjit Singh’s murder, the inquiry has yet to be scheduled. It is not going to happen.
This was a performance to showcase that the case was being viewed seriously and to indicate to the international community that action would take place. It is was never going to happen since a similar promise of an inquiry was made following the assassination of Pakistan’s first Christian Minister of Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti in January, 2011. Likewise, the promise of an inquiry into the assassination into the former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007 has yet to take place.
The Late Surjit Singh aged 76 spent 36 years of his life in Kot Lakphat Prison in Lahore Pakistan following a dubious conviction of ‘espionage’. Following our intervention and involvement, Surjit Singh was released in June 2012:
Surjit Singh died a free man in India in November, 2015 after spending 36 years of his life in prison.
Then there is the recent case of another Indian national, Hamid Nehal Ansari who was also convicted of ‘espionage’ as recently as 2016 after Pakistani authorities originally spent three years denying that Hamid was in Pakistan:
Kirpal Singh another Indian national was convicted of ‘espionage’ and sentenced to death in 1992 died in Kot Lakphat Prison in Lahore, Pakistan in April, 2016 under suspicious circumstances:
Kulbhushan Jadhav is the latest known victim accused of ‘espionage’. His detention was announced by the Pakistani authorities in the media in March, 2016:
In all the cases referred to, the Pakistani authorities have denied these prisoners their universal right to access to Consular access and their right to obtain independent legal advice, contact with their respective families; the right to access to an independent medical assessment and medical treatment. This is a blatant abuse of human rights on a horrific level which the international community should collectively condemn.
The Indian and Pakistani authorities have relied on bilateral treaties and reciprocity; these clearly have failed to work. There is not a single single case that has been successful under the bilateral agreements – as the families of the missing 1971 Indo-Pak families who have been waiting for over 45 years will no doubt verify.
We have previously advised in in the slaying of Captain Saurabh Kalia and his five officers cases as well as in the cases of the missing Indian POWs. We have consistently maintained that the only forum for justice in these cases is the international Court of Justice to adjudicate: