India-Pakistan relations tense as ICJ hearing stalls death penalty
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India-Pakistan relations tense as ICJ hearing stalls death penalty

THE EXECUTION of Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav, an Indian navy officer convicted of espionage and terrorism by Pakistan’s military, has been halted by International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague.

At the Peace Palace on Thursday, the United Nations’ top court ordered Pakistan to “to prevent the execution of an Indian national, Mr. Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav, pending final judgment of the court.” Jadhav was arrested while allegedly trying to enter Pakistan from Iran in March 2016, before being handed a death penalty conviction last month.

Indian parliamentarians, including communications minister Venkaiah Naidu, were elated and welcomed the ICJ’s verdict. Venkaiah termed the decision a “major victory for India”.

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Speaking to Pakistani media outlet Geo News on Friday, Pakistan’s counsel at the ICJ Khawar Qureshi lashed out at the verdict, saying “India misled the court and we have shown that,” rejecting what he called “propaganda” from the Indian press.

“The order issued by the ICJ is just a procedural order to enable full hearing,” he said, adding: “We have raised very strong arguments on the merits and jurisdiction.”

Kulbhushan Jadhav “alias Hussain Mubarak Patel, Indian RAW Agent/ Naval officer” was arrested on April 10, “through a Counter Intelligence Operation from Mashkel, Balochistan,” claims a press release from Pakistani authorities.

He was allegedly attempting to enter Pakistan through the Saravan border crossing in Iran’s Balochistan region and was convicted for “his involvement in espionage and sabotage activities against Pakistan.”

The press release further reads that Jadhav “was tried through Field General Court Martial (FGCM) under Pakistan Army Act (AAP) and awarded [the] death sentence” for actions seeking to “destabilise and wage war against Pakistan.”

The decision led India to knock on the door of the ICJ on May 8.

The appeal lodged by Harish Salve on behalf of Indian government sought immediate suspension of Jhadav’s execution, based on the claim that the Pakistan military’s use of the death penalty violates international law.

India has maintained that Jadhav is not a spy, and accuses Pakistan of violating the Vienna Convention by failing to provide him with consular access and breaking other human rights norms.

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During the trial Salve requested that the ICJ “take all the measures necessary to ensure that Mr. Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav is not executed.”

Salve referred to the Vienna Convention, Article 36, which states “when a national of a foreign country is arrested or detained on criminal or immigration charges, the detainee must be advised of the right to have the detainee’s consulate notified and that the detainee has the right to regular consultation with consular officials during detention and any trial.”

In a supposed confession video released by Pakistani media and widely circulated in early weeks of April in the country’s news media, Jadhav “confessed to his sabotage activities” and detailed his “networks with Indian Spy agency RAW.”

“The main aim of this crossing over to Pakistan was to hold a meeting with the Baloch Separation liberation in Balochistan for carrying out various activities they were supposed to undertake and carrying backward the messages which they had to deliver backwards to the Indian agencies,” he says in the video.

India, however, claims that the video was recorded under immense mental and physical pressure by Pakistan’s security forces.

Pakistan’s counsel stated this week that “Indeed, Vienna Convention, particularly its Article 36, was never meant for ‘spies and those run the terrorist’s network.’”

Qureshi said that “relief sought by India is manifestly unavailable, and the jurisdiction (of ICJ) is limited,” asking the court instead “to reject India’s request for the indication of provisional measures.”

“God willingly we will win the case,” he said.