Jagtar Singh Johal: One year on India still failing to respond to torture allegations

India must stop ignoring its international obligations and urgently investigate the alleged torture of Jagtar Singh Johal, said human rights organisation REDRESS, as an event in the UK Parliament on Wednesday 14 November 2018 will mark the first year since his arrest in India.

Plain-clothes police officers seized, hooded and abducted Mr Johal, a British national from Dumbarton, on 4 November 2017 whilst he was in India to get married. Mr Johal alleges that he was subsequently subjected to torture.

In a handwritten account detailing his treatment that became available earlier this year, Mr Johal stated:

“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,”

and that

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

Mr Johal remains in prison in India, where he is facing charges for offences under the Indian Penal Code, the Indian Arms Act and the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act in cases brought by the Punjab police and the Indian National Investigation Agency.

The event in UK Parliament will take place at 1pm and is being hosted by Mr Johal’s local MP Martin Docherty-Hughes. 14 November will mark one year since Mr Johal disclosed his alleged torture to his lawyer in India. On 2 July 2018 over 70 UK MPs signed a letter raising concerns about the alleged torture suffered by Mr Johal.

Gurpreet Singh Johal, Mr Johal’s brother, said:

“Exactly one year ago on 14th November 2017, Jagtar disclosed to his lawyer that he had been subject to third degree torture and mistreatment. A year on, the Indian Authorities have continuously delayed criminal proceedings, failed to disclose prosecution witnesses statements and respond to the UN and UK for an investigation into the torture and mistreatment. I can recall the moment the lawyer told me that Jagtar had been subject to third degree torture and mistreatment. As he disclosed to the lawyer that he had been subject to torture and mistreatment, he asked the lawyer: If I tell you this, will they do it again?”

Mr Johal’s brother added:

“Whilst the physical torture stopped, the mental torture continues to date. The UK government have also failed Jagtar, although they ‘promised extreme action’ if found that a British citizen had been subject to torture and mistreatment. The Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has failed to meet the family. It’s becoming more and more evident that it is ‘trade over human rights’.”

Rupert Skilbeck, Director of REDRESS, said:

“As time goes on it is increasingly vital that these serious torture allegations are investigated without further delay, and the Indian authorities must ensure that any evidence obtained by torture is not used against Jagtar.”

REDRESS is also calling on India to respond to an urgent appeal made by three high level United Nations experts in Mr Johal’s case on 29 January of this year.

UN experts called on India to respond to the torture allegations; the legal basis for Mr Johal’s arrest and detention; and the results of any medical examination that may have been conducted. As far as REDRESS is aware, India has yet to respond to the urgent appeal and has not provided Mr Johal with an independent medical examination. REDRESS will also be updating the UN experts about the case.

The widespread use of torture and ill-treatment in India during investigations or to extract confessions has long been documented by human rights groups. Amnesty International documented 894 deaths in judicial custody and 74 deaths in police custody during a period of just eight months last year. India is the only major democracy that has not ratified the UN Convention against Torture. REDRESS has long advocated for India to do so.

For more information or an interview, please contact Eva Sanchis, REDRESS’ Head of Communications, on [email protected] or +44 (0) 20 7793 1779.

Notes to editors:

  1. The urgent appeal 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 from 29 January 2018 is available here. The urgent appeal was made following a complaint by REDRESS and Ensaaf to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture in December 2017.
  2. A letter signed by over 70 MPs raising concerns about the alleged torture suffered by Mr Johal from 2 July 2018 is available here
  3. REDRESS’ most recent press releases about the case are available here:
  4. Background information about the case is available here
  5. Human rights organisations have long documented the widespread use of torture and ill-treatment in judicial and police custody in India, including in Amnesty International’s Report 2017/2018 and Human Rights Watch’s Bound by Brotherhood’: India’s Failure to End Killings in Police Custody.