20 April 2002

Why the U.K.'s report on Modi's riots worries Delhi

20 April 2002
The Times of India

Why UK’s report worries Delhi


New Delhi: The Vajpayee government is worried a scathing report on the Gujarat riots prepared by the British High Commission here might form the basis for British courts to indict chief minister Narendra Modi for ‘complicity’ in the killing of three British Muslims near Ahmedabad in early March — and possibly even genocide.

‘‘we presume the British government will fight any such move, just as it opposed the idea of extraditing Pinochet,’’ said an official, referring to the year-long legal battle by human rights activists to have the former Chilean dictator sent to Spain to face trial. ‘‘But if the victims’ family members move the courts in Britain, there is no telling what might happen’’.

British law allows for jurisdiction when crimes are committed against citizens overseas. and since a similar provision was explicitly introduced into the Indian statute book via the new Prevention of Terrorism Act, India would be hard put to invoke national sovereignty if a British court were to make an extradition request.

The Times of India has learned that at least two human rights organisations and several Indian lawyers in the UK are ‘‘actively examining’’ the possibility of moving the British courts against Modi and senior Gujarat officials for their alleged ‘‘role’’ in the killing. ‘‘Based on all that has emerged’’ said one London-based Indian lawyer, ‘‘a strong case can be made out on the complicity of the State’s leadership.’’ She said reports of senior Gujarat ministers taking over Police Control Rooms and preventing officers from saving lives ‘‘will help establish the chain of command right to the top’’.

What apparently has the Vajpayee government worried is that the British High Commission report also seems to support the charge that the riots were planned and that the police connived with the killers. Any British court which takes up the case is likely to subpoena the report and use it to put pressure on the Blair government. For the moment, the Blair government is handling the case gingerly. Its main concern seems to be securing adequate monetary compensation for its murdered citizens.

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