Islamabad: A day after a military tribunal in Pakistan handed out a death sentence to former Indian Naval officer and alleged spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, several nations apart from India have questioned and challenged the verdict.
Observers and experts on criminal or espionage-related laws in a majority of these countries have suggested that the death sentence against Jadhav is a clear violation of Article 36 of the Vienna Convention that makes it mandatory for every government to provide consular access to an arrested foreign national by officials of his/her government.
In fact, German Ambassador to Pakistan Dr Gunter Mulack, while speaking at the Pakistan Institute of International Affairs within a month of Yadav’s arrest last year, informed the gathering that the Indian had been actually caught by the Taliban in Iran and sold to Pakistani intelligence.
Oddly, all that the outside world got to see of Jadhav after his arrest was a heavily edited video, released through the Pakistani media, of his so-called confession of being a RAW agent.
Authorities in Pakistan have refused to entertain multiple requests made by New Delhi and its High Commission for consular access to him.
Kulbhushan Jadhav was not even tried and sentenced by an ordinary Pakistani court but by a military court more than a year after his arrest in Balochistan on charges of espionage and sabotage.
These courts were established soon after the December 2014 terror attack on the Army-run school in Peshawar, with the objective of providing speedy trials in cases linked with terrorism.
Through a constitutional amendment, the Pakistan Parliament had then voted to empower these courts to try civilians accused of terrorism.
However, it also built in a two-year ‘sunset clause’ during which time the government was meant to introduce legislative changes to strengthen the civilian justice system.
This death sentence has been confirmed by Pakistani Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a release.
The Amnesty International on Monday slammed Pakistan over the death sentence given to Jadhav by the military court and asserted that Islamabad had violated international fair trial safeguards in issuing the statement.
“The Amnesty International opposes death sentence given to Kulbushan Jadhav by military court in Pakistan. Pakistan military courts violated the international fair trial safeguards, stripped defendants of key rights and operated in a notorious secrecy,” the human rights organisation said in a statement.
So what was the need for Kulbhushan Jadhav to be tried by a military court?
It goes without saying that the Pakistani government did not have enough evidence to prove their claims about Jadhav being an Indian spy.
This fact was also revealed by none other than Sartaz Aziz, Advisor to the Pakistani Prime Minister, who while addressing a full Senate chamber in December 2016, had categorically stated that the dossier prepared by the Pakistani Government on Jadhav only contained “mere statements” and did not have any conclusive evidence.
Over the last two years, Pakistan’s military courts have gained the disrepute of not being transparent and violating all provisions of a fair trial.
For instance, out of the 274 convictions since February 2015, 161 were sentenced to death.
144 of these “confessed” to their crimes. Not only were these trials kept under wraps, the accused also did not have the right to appeal, an essential component of a free and fair trial.
This blatant disregard for rule of law in Pakistan, has also attracted the attention of the International Commission of Jurists, which in a strongly worded paper published in 2016, stated that the Pakistani “government and military authorities have failed to make public, information about the time and place of their trials; the specific charges and evidence against the convicts; as well as the judgments of the military courts including the essential findings, legal reasoning, and evidence on which the convictions were based.”