ICJ orders Pakistan to stay execution of Indian 'spy'

Former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav, whose image is on a banner here, has been accused by the Pakistani government of fomenting terrorist activities in the restive south-west province of Baluchistan, and sentenced to death. A friend
Former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav, whose image is on a banner here, has been accused by the Pakistani government of fomenting terrorist activities in the restive south-west province of Baluchistan, and sentenced to death. A friend of the former officer is seen here with a photo of Jadhav and a group of friends.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Court wants to rule on case brought by India claiming the man was denied consular access

NEW DELHI • The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ordered Pakistan to stay the execution of a former Indian naval officer convicted of espionage - the latest development in a high-profile case that has further strained relations in an already tense region.

The court asked Pakistan on Thursday to delay the execution of the former officer, Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav, until it had a chance to rule on a case brought by India, which claims that Pakistan prevented Jadhav from having access to consular officials after his arrest.

"Pakistan shall take all measures... to ensure Jadhav is not executed pending the final decision in these proceedings, and shall inform the court of all the measures taken in the implementation of the present order," the ICJ said in its order.

Jadhav was arrested in March last year and charged with espionage and sabotage. He was accused by the Pakistani government of fomenting terrorist activities in the restive south-west province of Baluchistan, and sentenced to death the following month.

The Pakistani authorities have pointed to his arrest as evidence of India's involvement in terrorist activities in the country.

The Indian government has maintained that Jadhav is a retired naval officer who was conducting business in Iran when the Pakistani authorities kidnapped him there and took him to Pakistan.

The Indian government has maintained that Jadhav is a retired naval officer who was conducting business in Iran when the Pakistani authorities kidnapped him there and took him to Pakistan.

Jadhav was tried in a military court, drawing criticism from human rights activists, who said he was denied a fair trial.

The case captured the public's attention in both countries after the Indian government filed its case in the ICJ, the United Nations body in The Hague, on May 8.

India has claimed Jadhav was not permitted to meet consular officials during a rapid trial and sentencing, adding that Pakistan violated the Vienna Convention.

Indian officials celebrated the court's order on Thursday.

"The stand of the Indian government has been vindicated," Mr Mukul Rohatgi, India's Attorney-General, told reporters. "The Indian government's stand is really based on truth, justice and respect for human rights."

Ms Sushma Swaraj, India's foreign minister, wrote on Twitter: "The ICJ order has come as a great relief to the family of Kulbhushan Jadhav and the people of India."

The office of Pakistan's Attorney-General released a statement that played down the court's decision. "These measures have no bearing whatsoever on the final decision of the court," the statement read. "We are confident that India would not be able to hide the subversive activities it is trying to carry out through its agents like Commander Jadhav."

Pakistan and India regularly convict one another's citizens of espionage, but executions are rare.

In 2013, an Indian man convicted of espionage and awaiting execution was beaten to death by fellow inmates in Pakistan, prompting an angry response from India.

In 1999, Sheikh Shamim, an Indian convicted of espionage in Pakistan, was hanged there.

Mr Asad Jamal, a human rights lawyer based in Lahore, Pakistan, criticised Pakistan's handling of Jadhav's case. "I think it is quite a serious blow to Pakistan's standing at the UN, as well as to its image at the international level," Mr Jamal said. "I think Pakistan should withdraw from its position, which is contrary to international law and human rights norms, allow consular access and an independent lawyer for Jadhav, and hold an open and fair trial."

NEW YORK TIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2017, with the headline 'ICJ orders Pakistan to stay execution of Indian 'spy''. Print Edition | Subscribe