- Toby Cadman
Press Statement: Urgent Communication Submitted to the UN Special Procedures - Christian Michel
GUERNICA 37 INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE CHAMBERS FILES URGENT COMMUNICATION WITH THE UNITED NATIONS WORKING GROUP ON ARBITRARY DETENTION AND SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON TORTURE AGAINST UNITED ARAB EMIRATES AND THE REPUBLIC OF INDIA IN RESPECT OF BRITISH NATIONAL CHRISTIAN MICHEL.
GENEVA, 23 April 2019 –Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers has today filed an Urgent Communication with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, on behalf of Mr. Christian Michel, a British citizen who is currently being detained in an Indian prison having been extradited from the United Arab Emirates in December 2018.
It is important to note that the extradition process cannot be seen as a judicial decision independent of the executive. It is quite clear that the level of political interference with the case was such that it is devoid of an independent judicial process and can only be characterised an unlawful transfer from one state to another that is reminiscent of rendition. It is of particular note that the Petitioner was handcuffed, blindfolded and transported by private jet, clearly being taken in a hurried and unlawful manner without the ability to challenge any decision. It is quite apparent that the detention, and further, any subsequent trial, has not, and will not adhere to relevant fair trial standards, and thus again, detention in these circumstances can only be deemed as arbitrary.
Mr. Michel is alleged to have been involved in the corruption concerning the sale of AgustaWestland helicopters to the Indian Government in 2010, an allegation that India maintains despite the Italian High Court having previously rejected Mr. Michel’s involvement in the scandal, ruling that there was no evidence to implicate Mr. Michel.
It is alleged that Mr. Michel was extradited to India following a formal request being submitted to the United Arab Emirates. The reality is that Mr. Michel was unlawfully handed over to the Government of India, the procedure resembling more rendition than a lawful extradition process. It is alleged that Mr. Michel was handed over as part of a quid pro quofollowing the Indian authorities alleged involvement in the abduction of Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al Maktoum and her return to the UAE in March 2018.
Having been returned to India, Mr. Michel has been held in squalid conditions that breach basic human rights conditions, subjected to repeated and prolonged interrogations aimed at securing a confession through coercion, and subjected to ill-treatment of such severity that may constitute torture at the hands of the Central Bureau of Intelligence and the Enforcement Department. Having not been charged with any criminal offence, Mr. Michel has been held in custody for a prolonged period in circumstances that can only be said to be politically motivated, and thus his detention is rendered arbitrary.
The process by which Mr. Michel was extradited to India did not follow due process and further, is a clear attempt to override international protocols relating to the process. The process that led to his removal from the UAE can only be described as a flagrant denial of justice that circumvented due process and seriously undermines any purported commitment to the rule of law.
Following a failed attempt to extradite Mr. Michel in 2017, as a result of India failing to provide the evidence to substantiate the request, the government reinstated the original application following a meeting between Mr. Michel and a senior official in the Central Intelligence Bureau, in January 2018.
It is our submission that this request for extradition only came about following Mr. Michel’s refusal to cooperate in signing a 20-page confession incriminating himself in the alleged corruption.
Whilst in prison awaiting extradition, Mr. Michel was prevented from contacting his instructed counsel in violation of national and international law. He was held in a Dubai Police Station for 135 days before being blind-folded and taken to India on a private jet.
On arriving in India, Mr. Michel was interrogated by the Central Bureau of Intelligence for two weeks, with these sessions lasting 14 hours or more without any breaks. He was then moved to a cell in Tihar jail where he was forced to share with 45 other people. These are just two examples of the ill-treatment that Mr. Michel is alleged to have been subjected to and the arbitrary conditions in which he is said to be detained.
The protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms ought to go beyond the political posturing of national states; human rights are universal, they are not dependent on diplomatic, trade or military allegiance, and yet governments consistently allow such factors to blinker their policies to the detriment of individuals, rather than discharge their obligation to humanity.
In filing this petition of complaint, Guernica requests that the UN Special Procedures Branch examine the circumstances of Mr. Michel’s rendition, detention, and ongoing ill-treatment with a view to his release and exoneration being secured.
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Guernica 37 is a specialist Barristers’ Chambers experienced in advising and assisting States as they commence a process of structural reform and transformation following periods of political instability, post-conflict, post-authoritarian regimes or prolonged periods of state institutions controlled by systemic and structural corrupt practices. Our range of clientele come from the political, institutional and economic sectors as key stakeholders in any lasting and sustainable transformation.