At 6:30 pm IST on Wednesday, 17 July, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) will deliver its verdict in the Kulbhushan Jadhav case.
The judgment has obvious personal stakes for Jadhav, whose very life depends on whether or not the court finds that Pakistan violated international law when detaining and trying him.
However, the verdict will not just decide the fate of the detained Indian national – it could also provide an answer to one of the most complex dilemmas in international relations:
Should foreign nationals accused of being spies or terrorists be eligible for the same rights under international law as those accused of other crimes?
Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian national and retired naval officer, was arrested by Pakistan on 3 March 2016 and accused of being an Indian spy and a terrorist. He was tried by a military court, convicted and sentenced to death in early 2017.
After India became aware of these developments, it decided to take Pakistan to the ICJ, which hears arguments between nations about violations of treaties, customary international law and other international legal norms.
On 18 May 2017, the ICJ granted India’s request for provisional measures, requesting Pakistan to take all necessary steps to ensure that Jadhav was not executed before the court’s final decision. Arguments on the main issues took place before the court from 18-21 February 2019.
Why did India take Pakistan to the ICJ?
India’s case is that Pakistan violated its obligations under international law because of the way in which it handled the detention and trial of Kulbhushan Jadhav.
According to India, Pakistan failed to comply with Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963 (VCCR) because it failed to provide Jadhav with ‘consular access’ after his arrest.
What is consular access?
Article 36(1)(b) of the VCCR states that if a foreign national of Country A is arrested in Country B:
Article 36(1)(c) states that consular officers of Country A have a right to visit nationals from Country A that have been arrested or detained in any other country, and shall also have the right to arrange for legal aid for them.