A five-judge panel of the Danish High Court has unanimously upheld a lower
court verdict not to extradite Niels Holck to India to face charges of
weapons smuggling because he would risk inhumane treatment in India.
"As the charges against (Niels Holck) are of rebellion against the Indian
authorities, the Court finds that extradition to face charges in India
would involve a real risk that he would be subjected to treatment that
contravenes the European Human Rights Convention Article 3,” the court said.
The court added India had not signed the United Nations Convention Against
Torture and that it had elicited information from among others independent
human rights organisations and government sources.
“There is information that in India there is a continued widespread and
systematic use of torture and inhumane or degrading treatment of people in
police and prison custody, and serious problems with killings and deaths
among such people,” the Court said.
“I don’t really know what to think yet,” Niels Holck said adding it remained
to be seen whether the prosecution would seek leave to appeal the verdict to
the Supreme Court.
Prosecuting Attorney Jørgen Jensen, who contested the case for the Justice
Ministry, said he would now consider the verdict and discuss with the
Justice Ministry whether to proceed to the Supreme Court.
Denmark’s Justice Ministry initially gave the green light to extradition on
strict terms for Holck’s welfare, including an undertaking that he would not
be given a death sentence, that he could serve his sentence in Denmark, that
torture may not be used against him and that the Danish embassy should have
access to him during the case. Holck successfully argued, however, in the
lower court that he would not be fairly treated.
India accuses Holck of being one of a group that dropped weapons near the town
of Purulia in West Bengal in 1995. Weapons, including Kalashnikovs, sniper
rifles and anti-tank weapons were dropped over Purulia on December 17, 1995
from a Latvian registered and crewed Antonov An-26 aircraft that had taken
off from Burgas in Bulgaria.
Purulia inhabitants contacted local police after finding some of the weapons,
by which time the aircraft had continued to Thailand. On its return it
entered Indian air space and was forced to land in Mumbai by Indian Air
Force jets, but Holck managed to escape capture.