Jagtar Signh Johal

Jagtar Singh Johal: India fails to respond to UN experts as new details of his alleged torture emerge

The Government of India has failed to respond to an urgent appeal from three high level United Nations experts to investigate the serious allegations of torture in the case of Jagtar Singh Johal, as new details of his treatment emerge.

Following his arrest in November last year, Jagtar, a British national, alleges that he suffered severe torture by the Indian police during his early detention. Seven months after the alleged torture, he remains in detention and has still not been provided with an independent medical examination despite repeated requests by his lawyers. As far as REDRESS is aware, India has taken no steps to investigate the allegations.

In a handwritten account testifying to his treatment, made public by his family for the first time, Jagtar describes being “stripped and beaten”. He states that he was tortured repeatedly over the course of a number of days:

“The torture took place intermittently, numerous times each day. Electric shocks were administered by placing the crocodile clips on my ear lobes, nipples and private parts. Multiple shocks were given each day.”

He also says that his legs were forced apart in opposite directions to cause him severe pain:

“Each time the act of pulling my legs would take place, the pain would increase. At some stages I was left unable to walk and had to be carried out of the interrogation room”. 

The account continues: 

“Threats of taking me to a remote location where I would be shot dead were also given. At one point petrol was brought into the room and I was threatened with being burnt.”

Jagtar also alleges that he was forced to make recordings of statements that the police officers told him to say, and that he was forced to sign blank pieces of paper and other documents he was not allowed to read, possibly for the purposes of obtaining false evidence.

Jagtar was seized, hooded and abducted by plain clothes police officers while out shopping with his wife in Punjab, India, on 4 November 2017. Following a brief court hearing on 5 November, Indian police officials held Mr Johal in incommunicado for nine days in an undisclosed location, until 14 November.

Following a request by human rights organisations REDRESS and Ensaaf, a joint urgent appeal to the Government of India was sent on 29 January 2018 by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture; the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, and the Vice-Chair of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

In the urgent appeal, they call on India to respond to the serious allegations of torture and to provide information about the measures taken to prevent any further torture or ill-treatment; the legal basis for Jagtar’s arrest and detention; and the results of any medical examination that may have been conducted. 

The UN experts also express “grave concern”, stating:

“While we do not wish to prejudge the accuracy of these allegations, grave concern is expressed at the alleged torture and ill-treatment of Mr. Jagtar Singh Johal in police custody.”

The urgent appeal was recently made public in a report to the UN Human Rights Council. India has not yet provided a response to the urgent appeal, according to the latest information received by REDRESS.

Prime Minister Theresa May last raised the case of Jagtar during a visit from the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to London in April. 

Rupert Skilbeck, Director of REDRESS, said:

“It has now been seven months since Jagtar has said he was tortured, and it is imperative that India immediately launches a full investigation and addresses the concerns raised by the UN special rapporteurs. As the details of Jagtar’s treatment in prison emerge it must be made clear that any evidence obtained through torture cannot be used in a court process against him.”

More information about the case can be found on the REDRESS website here.

For more information or for an interview, please contact Eva Sanchis, REDRESS’ Head of Communications, on 020 7793 1777 or 07857 110 076 (out of hours) and eva@redress.org.

REDRESS is an international human rights organization based in London and The Hague which seeks justice and reparation for survivors of torture and related international crimes.