British Citizen Illegally Abducted, Detained, and Tortured in Punjab
On November 4, 2017, plain clothes Punjab Police officials abducted British citizen Jagtar Singh Johal, alias Jaggi, while he was vacationing in Punjab. According to news reports, his lawyer, and his family, they have held him in illegal detention and tortured him since then. The Government alleges that Mr. Johal was involved with a website that highlights militant personalities from the insurgency in Punjab in the 1980s and 1990s. The Punjab Police abducted him on November 4th, while he was out shopping in Punjab with his wife and others. Mr. Johal’s lawyer has stated that the Punjab Police administered electric shocks to Mr. Johal’s genitals, among other forms of torture.
Mr. Johal has been in India since October 2nd, for his wedding. The Government has not charged him with any crime. On November 10, the British High Commission was prevented from meeting him during a court hearing. According to BBC News, the police have secured remand until Friday, November 17. Today, the BBC News reported that consular staff have met with Mr. Johal.
Police remand puts Mr. Johal most at risk, because it is often used to initiate a cycle of arbitrary, incommunicado, and indefinite detention, facilitating torture and other extrajudicial violence. Further, India’s courts rarely operate in an impartial, independent, and timely manner when allegations of human rights violations are made against the state. The lack of judicial independence was illustrated by recent reports of corruption at the highest level among India’s supreme court justices.
Given India’s disregard for diplomatic, legal, and due process norms in this matter and the weakness of its judicial institutions, continued and forceful diplomatic intervention is necessary to ensure that India refrains from further abuse and illegal treatment of Mr. Johal. It would be foolhardy to believe judicial remedies alone could be relied upon as a mechanism to safeguard Mr. Johal’s human rights. The UK Government must make every effort to prevent further police remand, and to secure Mr. Johal’s release.
There is no justifiable basis for the Government of India’s illegal treatment of Mr. Johal. He is not wanted for any crime in India or elsewhere, and is being illegally detained under false charges in a manner that does not comport with minimum notions of due process. The Government of India’s treatment of Mr. Johal puts all British citizens at risk of illegal and arbitrary detention and additional human rights violations in India.
Ensaaf is the leading human rights NGO working to end impunity and achieve justice for gross human rights violations in India, with a special focus on Punjab. Ensaaf documents abuses, brings perpetrators to account, and organizes survivors to advocate for their rights.