India and Pakistan this week faced off at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague, in a tense case surrounding the potential execution of an Indian man held in Pakistan.
The heavily politicised affair concerns Indian national Kulbhushan Sudhir Jadhav, a retired naval officer who was living in Iran. In March 2016 he was arrested as part of a counter intelligence operation by the Pakistani intelligence services, in the region of Balochistan which he visited frequently.
Pakistani officials quickly labelled him an Indian spy, stating that he was working towards the subversion of the Pakistani state by supporting separatists in the Balochistan. After interrogation, a video appearing to show Mr Jadhav confessing to being a spy and supporting “terrorists” within Pakistan was released to the media by Pakistani officials.
In the video, he admitted to taking part in activities “of anti-national or terrorist nature which resulted in the killing and wounding of Pakistani citizens.” Indian has denied that he remains on their payroll, and attempted to offer Mr Jadhav consular assistance, but access was blocked by Pakistan.
Mr Jadhav was subsequently charged with spying, terrorist activities and the subversion of the Indian state and sentenced to death by a Military Court in April. The move outraged India, who last week launched the case to the ICJ in a hurried attempt to stay the execution.
Indian lawyers argued that Pakistan was responsible for “egregious violations of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations” through the denial of the access to the Mr Jadhav. They have further claimed that Pakistan have violated human rights law, as the manner in which he was tried violated article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Pakistan has denied these claims, with Pakistani representative at the trial Mohammad Faisal calling the case “political theatre”. The Pakistani legal team further argued that consular assistance does to not constitute an absolute right under the Vienna Convention.
India is asking the court for provisional measures to stop the execution before Pakistan have a chance to carry it out. The deliberations lasted only one day, with the court reiterating its desire to give a pronouncement on the case as soon as possible.
Nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan have a long history of tension, exacerbated this year by military clashes in the disputed Kashmir region. The ICJ case deals with a hugely sensitive political issue, and whichever way the court decides there will likely be serious ramifications for the relations between the two rivals.