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 1995.
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.
Edited by Julian Isherwood