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India begins arguments in Jadhav case before International Court of Justice

Updated February 18, 2019

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Exterior view of the Peace Palace which houses the International Court of Justice in The Hague. ─ AP
Exterior view of the Peace Palace which houses the International Court of Justice in The Hague. ─ AP
Pakistan's attorney general Anwar Mansoor Khan, left, Mohammad Faisal, Foreign Ministry spokesman, second left, and lawyer Khawar Qureshi, third from left, wait for judges to enter and India to present its oral arguments at the International Court of Justice. ─ AP
Pakistan's attorney general Anwar Mansoor Khan, left, Mohammad Faisal, Foreign Ministry spokesman, second left, and lawyer Khawar Qureshi, third from left, wait for judges to enter and India to present its oral arguments at the International Court of Justice. ─ AP

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Monday formally commenced a public hea­­ring on the conviction of Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav, with India presenting its arguments first.

Harish Salve is representing New Delhi, while English Queen's Counsel Khawar Qureshi will make submissions tomorrow from Islamabad's side. Then India will reply on Feb 20 while Islamabad will make its closing submissions on Feb 21. It is expected that the ICJ decision may be delivered by the summer of 2019. The court's decisions are final and legally binding.

Commander Jadhav was captured in Balochistan in March 2016 after allegedly entering the country via Iran, and later confessed to his association with Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and his involvement in espionage and fomenting terrorism in Pakistan.

Pakistani officials say that Jadhav has been linked to 1,345 deaths in acts of terrorism in Pakistan, making secret trips to the country from Iran.

He was convicted in Pakistan by a military court and sentenced to death in April 2017. The United Nations court last year ordered Pakistan not to execute him pending the outcome of the case in The Hague.

Monday's hearings played out against a backdrop of already-high tensions between Pakistan and India over last week's attack in occupied Kashmir's Pulwama district.

India today accused Pakistan of an "egregious" breach of Jadhav's rights. Salve told judges at the ICJ that Pakistan's claims of espionage and sabotage against Jadhav have "always been strong on rhetoric and blurry on facts".

As hearings opened in the Great Hall of Justice in The Hague, Salve said that Jadhav's court martial "hopelessly fails to satisfy even minimum standards of due process and ... should be declared unlawful."

He urged judges to declare Jadhav's continued custody unlawful and "considering the trauma to which he has been subjected for over three years, it would be in the interests of justice, of making human rights a reality, to direct his release".

India claims that Pakistani authorities have ignored repeated requests to grant Jadhav access to consular officials and let him choose his own lawyer for the trial. The Foreign Ministry had facilitated a Christmas meeting between Jadhav's wife and mother in 2017.