UN panel's finding on Michel based on limited info, biased allegations: MEA

Christian Michel

Rejecting the opinion of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention calling for immediate release of AgustaWestland VVIP chopper deal case accused British national Christian Michel, India on Friday said the conclusions drawn by the UN panel are based on limited information, biased allegations and an inaccurate understanding of its criminal justice system.

India also made it clear that the Working Group is not a judicial body, and therefore, its opinions are not legally binding on the member states.

AFP on Thursday reported that the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) found that Michel, who has been held in India since December 2018 after being extradited from the United Arab Emirates, was being "detained arbitrarily".

Responding to queries over the report, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said, "We have seen selective leaks of the opinion of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concerning the case of Mr. Christian James Michel, even before its official release."

"At the outset we would like to make it clear that the Working Group is not a judicial body, and therefore, its opinions are not legally binding on the Member States," he said.

Srivastava said the Indian government provided timely information on this issue to the Working Group in June 2020, at their request.

"We regret that the conclusions drawn by the Working Group are based on limited information, biased allegations from an unidentified source and on an inaccurate understanding of India's criminal justice system," he asserted.

The extradition was done entirely in accordance with the provisions of the extradition treaty signed between two sovereign states, Srivastava said, adding that the arrest and subsequent custody were done as per the due process of law and cannot be considered arbitrary on any grounds.

"At no time was the accused denied his rights to legal counsel or a fair hearing. The fact that he has been able to approach courts on multiple occasions including the higher judiciary is itself proof of this," the MEA Spokesperson said.

There have also been no restrictions on consular access by the authorities, he asserted.

Michel has been treated on par with other detainees and provided all facilities by the prison authorities as per rules, Srivastava said.

The Working Group should be aware that India has a robust grievance redressal mechanisms against allegations of violations of human rights in a vibrant and independent judiciary and a 'category A' National Human Rights Commission compliant with the Paris Principles, he said.

Srivastava said the allegations which form the basis of the opinion rendered by the Working Group are contrary to facts.

"The Government of India therefore, rejects the opinion rendered by the Working Group," he said.

India, as a responsible member of the Human Rights Council, will continue to cooperate with the Working Group and provide it with the necessary information to the extent possible under Indian laws, to promote and protect human rights of all, the MEA spokesperson said.

Michel is an accused in the VVIP chopper scam and has been in jail ever since he was brought on a special plane from Dubai after UAE authorities handed him over to the Indian government in December 2018.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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