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ISLAMABAD: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said on Wednesday that Islamabad was still reviewing India’s position on Pakistan’s decision to execute Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav.

Talking to reporters after an event in the capital, he said India had approached the International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Jadhav’s execution, and that Pakistan was in the process of reviewing its stand, after which a formal response would be given in a couple of days.

The ICJ has asked the government of Pakistan to stay the execution of Jadhav after India moved the international court, accusing Islamabad of denying consular access to the Indian spy under the Geneva Convention.

International court ‘stays’ Indian spy’s death sentence

Mr Aziz said the government was also ascertaining whether the matter fell within the domain of ICJ or not.

However, according to statements released from The Hague, the ICJ will begin public hearings in the matter from Monday, May 15. “The hearings will be devoted to the request for the indication of provisional measures submitted by India,” said a statement released by ICJ on Wednesday night.

An earlier statement said that ICJ President Judge Ronny Abraham had “addressed [on Tuesday] an urgent communication to the prime minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan” which asked for Jadhav’s sentence to be stayed.

Also on Wednesday, military spokesperson Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said that Jadhav had been convicted in accordance with the law of the land and that the legal process was under way. He offered no comments on the ICJ decision and said the Foreign Office would respond to the international court’s missive.

India’s case before the ICJ revolves around Pakistan being a signatory to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR) and not fulfilling its obligations under Article 36 of the convention, which obliges it to inform India about Jadhav’s detention “without delay”, intimate the detainee of his rights and provide him consular access.

The Indian position is that Pakistan not only failed to inform India about his detention, but was also denying consular access.

In addition to being a signatory to the convention, Pakistan has also adopted an optional protocol that gives the ICJ jurisdiction over disputes that could arise over fulfilment obligations under the convention.

However, both India and Pakistan have identified reservations and exceptions in accepting ICJ jurisdiction.

India invoked a similar reservation in 1999 to get Pakistan’s petition over the downing of a navy aircraft dismissed.

At the time, the court had referred to the declarations of acceptance of the compulsory jurisdiction of the court made by both states, saying that India’s declaration contained a reservation, according to which “disputes with the government of any state which is or has been a member of the commonwealth of nations” are excluded from the court’s jurisdiction.

Pakistan also made similar exceptions at the time of adopting the additional protocol.

In addition, the two countries have a bilateral agreement on consular access, under which they have agreed to decide political and security-related matters on the merits of each case. Neither of the parties can, therefore, demand blanket access in such cases.

This bilateral agreement is not mentioned in India’s petition to the ICJ. It is important to note that bilateral accords take precedence over any multilateral framework, such as the VCCR.

In his remarks on Wednesday, Sartaj Aziz also disclosed that a Pak-Iran border commission had been formed and would hold its first meeting within a month. He said the commission consisted of four members from each country.

“Smugglers and other elements are present along the Pak-Iran border,” Aziz said, explaining that border issues between the two countries were not limited to terrorism. He downplayed the prevailing tensions with both Iran and Afghanistan, saying that the two countries were not Pakistan’s enemies.

Published in Dawn, May 11th, 2017

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