Kulbhushan Jadhav must be transferred to a neutral country

On June 11, in a bold move, Pakistan’s National Assembly managed to pass a bill that would give Kulbushan Jadhav, the Indian national and former naval officer, the right to appeal against accusations of espionage.

Jadhav was awarded death sentence by a Pakistan military court in April 2017. In May of the same year, India approached The Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) complaining that Pakistan had denied consular access to Jadhav.

The ICJ successfully got a restraining order against the death sentence till the case was adjudicated.

In July 2019, the ICJ came up with its verdict. It demanded that Pakistan must review the death sentence. Forced by the ICJ verdict, Pakistan then granted India consular access to Jadhav.

It is in the light of the ICJ verdict, that demands that he should be granted the right to appeal, that the National Assembly has passed the bill that would now allow him the right of appeal.

Although Pakistan passed the bill, the question is who will be reviewing the appeal when one is submitted? Given the hostile right-wing religious domestic environment in Pakistan towards India in general and Jadhav in particular there is convincing evidence that the decision against the appeal will be influenced by forces that manipulate public opinion to exert pressure of the judicial system and the subsequent decisions taken by Pakistani courts.

Hence, Pakistan must allow Indian lawyers access to meet Jadhav and prepare his appeal against the death sentence as well as his honourable repatriation to India.

The court that should be set up in order to listen to the arguments of the defendant should be comprised of judges from a neutral country and the hearing should also take place in a neutral country.

Meanwhile, in my opinion Jadhav should be transferred to a prison in a neutral country too. His life is in constant danger in Pakistan since the negative hype created by the media and right-wing clergy in Pakistan has already induced in the psyche of the majority of Pakistani population that he is guilty as charged i.e. of involvement in anti-Pakistani state activities.

No substantial proof of his involvement in espionage activities has thus far convincingly been established. All we know about him is that he was an Indian businessman trading in Iran who was allegedly kidnapped and brought to Pakistan.

To ensure that Jadhav gets a fair hearing at the appeal, he must be transferred to a prison in a neutral country where a neutral panel of judges should hear the arguments presented against the accusations made by the Pakistani military. Currently, he remains in the custody of the Pakistan military.

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