New Delhi: India on Thursday won its case at the Hague-based International Court of Justice (ICJ) for the immediate suspension of the death sentence handed to Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav for alleged espionage in Pakistan.
In its interim verdict, ICJ ruled “unanimously” that “Pakistan shall take all measures at its disposal to ensure that Mr Jadhav is not executed pending the final decision in these proceedings and shall inform the court of all the measures taken in implementation of the present order”.
The ICJ verdict in the Kulbhushan Jadhav death sentence case, read out by court president, judge Ronny Abraham of France, also dismissed Pakistan’s contention that Jadhav was not entitled to consular access since he was being tried as a spy and that the Vienna Convention was overridden by a bilateral pact signed between the two countries in 2008.
The ICJ said that its interim order was binding on Pakistan. A final verdict could take several years coming.
The Indian foreign ministry in New Delhi welcomed the order. The ICJ has delivered a “unanimous, favourable, clear and unambiguous verdict,” Gopal Baglay, spokesman for the Indian foreign ministry told reporters. The order means that “till the ICJ doesn’t come out with the final order, Kulbhushan Jadhav cannot be executed,” he said, adding that as a law-abiding country, India expects other law-abiding countries to follow the verdict.
A Press Trust of India report from Pakistan quoting foreign ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria said Pakistan does not accept the ICJ’s jurisdiction in matters of national security.
India had on 8 May moved a petition before the ICJ, the United Nations’ principal judicial organ, to seek justice for Jadhav, 46, accusing Pakistan of violating the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations after its 16 requests for access to the former naval officer were denied.
India says Jadhav was kidnapped from Iran while Pakistan claims he was arrested from Balochistan province. A military court handed the death sentence to Jadhav last month for alleged espionage and subversive activities.
The last time India and Pakistan faced off at ICJ was nearly two decades ago when Islamabad sought the court’s intervention over the shooting down of its a reconnaissance aircraft by the Indian Air Force in Gujarat on 10 August, 1999, killing all personnel on board.
India has previously avoided taking bilateral disputes with Pakistan to international fora to steer clear of internationalizing its frictions with Pakistan. In this case, however, India believes the ICJ can look into Jadhav’s case as both are signatories to the optional protocol of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations—which defines diplomatic relations between countries. The protocol says any dispute arising out of the interpretation or application of the Convention is within the jurisdiction of the ICJ.
“The ICJ order has come as a great relief to the family of Kulbhushan Jadhav and the people of India,” foreign minister Sushma Swaraj said in a post on Twitter.
The Kulbhushan Jadhav death sentence case has vitiated India-Pakistan relations which had already soured following a spate of terrorist attacks in 2016. In case Pakistan adheres to the verdict, it could provide an opportunity for a thaw between the two countries. If Islamabad does not adhere to the verdict, it could worsen tensions.
Arguing its case before the ICJ on Monday, India had said it feared that Jadhav could be executed before it concludes its arguments before the court.
In its verdict, ICJ’s Abraham said Pakistan had indicated that Jadhav would not be executed before August 2017 but had not said anything that would assure the court that the execution would not happen any time thereafter. “There is no assurance that Jadhav will not be executed before the ICJ gives its final verdict,” Abraham said, adding that this supported India’s argument for urgency in the case while approaching the ICJ.
The charges against Jadhav had been framed on the basis of confessional statements extracted from him when he was in Pakistan’s military custody, India’s counsel Harish Salve had said.
In a ruling last week, the ICJ put a stay on Pakistan’s military court verdict.