A UK-based legal team on behalf of AgustaWestland VVIP chopper case accused Christian Michel has approached the UN, alleging that he was “unlawfully” handed over to India where he has been held in “squalid conditions” in violation of human rights and subjected to “torture”.
Michel is currently being held in judicial custody in Delhi’s Tihar Jail and in the latest court intervention in India, the Delhi High Court granted more time to him and the CBI to respond to a plea by Tihar Jail authorities challenging an order allowing him to make international phone calls in violation of prison rules.
Michel was arrested by the ED and later by the CBI in a bribery case related to the Rs 3,600-crore AgustaWestland deal dating back to 2010. He is among three alleged middlemen being probed in the case.
London-based specialist barristers’ chambers ‘Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers’ claimed that the 57-year-old British national was “unlawfully” handed over to the Indian government as part of a quid pro quo following the Indian authorities’ alleged involvement in the abduction of Sheikha Latifa bint Mohammed al Maktoum and her return to the UAE in March 2018.
“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,” Guernica 37 said in a statement.
“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 (CBI) and the Enforcement Department (ED),” it noted.
As part of its “Urgent Communication” filed 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, the legal team claims that the detention and any subsequent trial will not adhere to relevant fair trial standards.
The communication reads: “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”.
The ED, in its chargesheet filed in 2016, alleged that Michel had received 30 million euros (USD 33 million) from AgustaWestland.
The CBI, in its chargesheet, has alleged an estimated loss of 398.21 million euros to the exchequer in India due to the deal that was signed on February 8, 2010 for the supply of VVIP choppers worth 556.262 million euros.
Guernica 37, as part of its UN petition filed on Tuesday, claimed that the Italian High Court has previously rejected Michel’s involvement in the scandal, ruling that there was no evidence to implicate him in the case.
“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,” it said.
The legal team is urging the UN Special Procedures Branch to examine the circumstances of Michel’s “rendition, detention and ongoing ill-treatment” with a view to his release and “exoneration”. The UN body will seek responses from the Indian and the UAE authorities and can make a non-legally-binding ruling on the detention.