Denmark is to deport a Danish national to India to face charges of arms
smuggling, but the United Nations Special Torture Rapporteur says that
Indian guarantees that the man will not be tortured are worthless.
Denmark has made Niels Holck’s extradition contingent on guarantees that he
will not be tortured, not be sentenced to death, and that if he is found
guilty and sentenced he will be transferred to a Danish prison at the latest
three weeks after his sentence.
Holck has been charged in India on suspicion of being one of a group of people
who dropped weapons over the area of the town of Purulia in West Bengal in
Without commenting on whether Holck should be extradited, United Nations
Special Torture Rapporteur Mannfred Nowak says that: ‘such a guarantee is
not worth the paper it is printed on.’
“Torture takes place behind closed doors and is carried out by the police or
security service. So irrespective of the guarantees that Denmark has
received from ministers and diplomats, these have no real ability to monitor
whether a person has been subjected to torture. As a result, the guarantees
are useless,” says Nowak
Human Rights Watch
According to Human Rights Watch, Indian police are notorious for their
use of torture. In West Bengal, where Holck is accused, some 82 torture
victims told of their torture during a hearing.
Since then, Amnesty International has reported that the organiser of the
hearing was unjustly imprisoned. In an open letter to the Indian government,
Amnesty writes that: “torture and other cruel, inhuman or humiliating
treatment or punishment is used throughout the country.”
Apart from Indian guarantees, Denmark’s Justice Ministry is also thought to
have based its decision on extraditing Holck on a US State Department
report. While the report says that the Indian government, in general,
respects the human rights of its citizens, it adds that there are ‘major
problems’ with torture carried out by the police and security service.
It has never been ascertained exactly who the weapons Holck has admitted
having been party to dropping were destined for. India has severally
suggested that they were destined for the Ananda Marga organisation or
rebels in North-east India allegedly supported by Bangladesh.
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, however, it entered Indian air space and was forced to land in
Mumbai by Indian Air Force jets. The crew and a British national Peter
Bleach were arrested.
Although all those caught were sentenced to life imprisonment, Bleach is said
to have been released after eight years in prison, while the Latvian crew
was released after five years following intervention from then Russian
president Vladimir Putin.
Holck, formerly known as Niels Christian Nielsen, managed to escape arrest and
made his way to Denmark.