The United Nations’ highest court ordered Pakistan on Wednesday to stay the execution of an alleged Indian spy and undertake a full review of his case, after agreeing with India’s contention the man’s rights had been violated in a case that has been a source of friction between the nuclear neighbors.
International Court of Justice President Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf said the panel of judges found 15-1 that Pakistan violated international law by not providing Kulbhushan Jadhav access to consular assistance or the ability to choose his own defense attorney.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the ruling, tweeting that “Truth and justice have prevailed.”
“I am sure Kulbhushan Jadhav will get justice,” he added.
Jadhav was arrested by Pakistan in 2016 after allegedly entering the country from Iran, and convicted of espionage and sabotage by a Pakistani military tribunal and sentenced to death in 2017.
India had denied that Jadhav was a spy and asked the world court to order his release, arguing his rights were violated in breach of an international treaty.
The court rejected Pakistan’s contention that Jadhav wasn’t entitled to those rights, as “an individual suspected of espionage.”
It did not, however, order Jadhav’s return to India or annul the military court’s decision.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry reiterated it believes “this is a clear care of Indian state terrorism,” but indicated it would comply with the court’s decision.
India and Pakistan routinely accuse each other of harboring terrorists.
“Pakistan, as a responsible member of the International community, upheld its commitment from the very beginning of the case by appearing before the honorable court for the provisional measures hearing despite a very short notice,” the ministry said in a written statement. “Having heard the judgment, Pakistan will now proceed as per law.”
As a remedy, the UN court ordered Pakistan to “take all measures to provide for effective review and reconsideration including, if necessary, by enacting appropriate legislation.”
Yusuf said it was up to Pakistan how to carry out the case’s review but that “the right of defense of the accused should receive close scrutiny.”
“The review and reconsideration of the conviction and sentence of Mr. Jadhav, in order to be effective, must ensure that full weight is given to the effect of the violation of the rights” in international conventions, Yusuf said.
As the case was being considered, the UN court had ordered Pakistan not to execute Jadhav, and extended that to now include Islamabad’s review of the case.
“The court considers that a continued stay of execution constitutes an indispensable condition for the effective review and reconsideration of the conviction and sentence of Mr. Jadhav,” Yusuf said.
The court’s rulings are final and legally binding.
Pakistan’s attorney general Anwar Mansoor Khan told journalists outside the Peace Palace in the Hague that he considers the case “a clear win for Pakistan” as the court did not order the acquittal and release of Jadhav as India had sought.
He added that Pakistan would consider the review of Jadhav's case as ordered by the UN court but said a Pakistani court of law would have to decide how to proceed with that. When asked by journalists if that meant Indian diplomats would get access to Jadhav, he stressed that was up to the court.
“That court of law will act in accordance with the provisions contained in the Vienna conventions so we will have to wait for the court of law to give its judgment,” Khan said.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the ruling was “appropriate” and an endorsement of his country’s stance.
“The point is whether Commander Jadhav didn’t have a right to review under our laws - that was there,” he said. “The decision which the military court gave, he could have appealed that.”