PAKISTAN: The UN must hold an inquiry into the extrajudicial killing of Sarabjit Singh in prison custody 

AHRC-STM-085-2013.jpgAn Indian prisoner, Sarabjit Singh, died in a state run hospital in Lahore, the capital of Punjab, after he slipped into irreversible coma. He was attacked by six ‘prisoners’ inside the Kot Lakhpat jail during the day on Friday April 26. However, the authorities are claiming that he was attacked by the two prisoners who confessed that they attacked him because he was an Indian spy. He had been languishing in prison for 23 years at the time of the attack when the two accused prisoners came to know that he was an Indian national. The attackers are said to be from a banned sectarian group.

Sarabjit Singh was arrested on August 30, 1990 for bombing and his case is an example of a miscarriage of justice where mistaken identity was presented as the sole evidence of his crime. The victim’s real name was Sarabjit Singh but he was sentenced to death in the name of Manjeet Singh. The sole eye witness of the case told different television channels that he was forced through coercion and intimidation to give evidence against the victim by officials of the intelligence agency, the ISI. Mr. Awais Sheikh, the lawyer acting for Sarbajit proved in different courts that his client was not the accused person. Please see the Urgent Appeal about his case.

Sarabjit was struck on the head with bricks and his neck and torso cut with sharp weapons from which wounds he subsequently died in hospital. The government has arrested two prisoners out of the six suspects and also announced that four prison officials have been suspended to cover up any backlash from the international community and particularly from India. However, not a single official has been actually suspended from his post. The caretaker government of Punjab province has only issued notices to seven Kot Lakhpat Jail officials, including Superintendent Mohsin Rafiq and additional superintendents Ishtiaq Ahmed Gill and Sawar Sumera, to explain why action should not be taken against them for failing to protect Sarabjit. Since then no further action has been taken against them and they remain at their posts.

Sarabjit Singh was shifted to the state run Jinnah Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries after six days. The Indian government had requested the government of Pakistan to send him back to India or any other country where he might have life saving treatment but the ego of the Pakistan government was considered more important than the life of a human being.

Human rights organizations and his lawyer appealed to the government of Pakistan on many occasions after the execution of Afzal Guru in India to provide Sarabjit effective security in jail as they feared a revenge killing. Guru was a Kashmiri sentenced to death for a terrorist attack on Parliament House in Delhi. Such demands were not taken seriously and the officials claimed they had shifted him to a special cell to avert any untoward incidents. However, all such claims proved false.

In the prevailing Anti-India atmosphere in Pakistan it was obvious that his death sentence would not be commuted and the courts, particularly the Supreme Court, was not ready to review his clemency appeal in the context of the mistaken identity and the likelihood that he would be extrajudicially killed.

The Pakistani Foreign Office has come out with a statement that Sarabjit Singh had been provided all the best possible treatment in the hospital but that he did not survive and a murder case has been filed against the attackers. This eye wash tells the whole story about the simplest way of killing an Indian. When his family, his sister Dalbir Kaur, his wife Sukhpreet Kaur and two daughters, Swapandeep and Poonam, came to Pakistan they all saw the unconscious man on the death bed for ten minutes. They claim to have physically touched him. They were sure that if he was transferred to India or some other country, he might have been saved. The doctors at the Jinnah Hospital told them that his chances of survival were very slim.

All this needs to be investigated by an unbiased commission of inquiry. The spokesperson of the Foreign Office has stated that a high powered inquiry commission to probe the cause of death is to be formed. However, no one will be able to judge the committee’s report as it will: (1) never come to surface as we still have not found any report of the commission on operation for the recovery of Osama Bin Laden and other very sensitive issues after several years of their formation, (2) the commission will not point the finger at the Pakistani authorities for their negligence and (3) it is a foregone conclusion that the findings will indicate that it was the personal act of two prisoners who were against India and wanted to take revenge for the execution of Guru thereby exonerating the government from all responsibility for this death.

The killing of the Sarabjit Singh is the result of a state sponsor hate campaign in the country against India which has resulted in the halting of friendly relations between the two countries. The same policy has been followed in the India where many Pakistanis are persecuted or jailed in order to balance the number of prisoners equally. If Pakistan arrests one Indian then India has to arrest an innocent Pakistani to please the fundamentalists and war mongers.

Therefore the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) calls upon the United Nations to conduct an inquiry into the case in order to determine how such a high profile prisoner could have been extrajudicially killed. The commission of inquiry must consist of experts from different countries.

The AHRC also urges the governments of both countries to take the first step in eliminating the root causes of hatred and hostility at the grass root level by allowing free cross border exchanges so that the hatred can be minimised if not eliminated. It is the responsibility of both governments to call a halt to this vendetta between their countries before more Sarabjit Singhs are killed.


Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-085-2013
Countries : Pakistan,
Issues : Extrajudicial killings, Judicial system, Rule of law,