Stop The Use Of Torture End The Death Penalty End Unlawful Detention In the news

Jagtar Singh Johal: Briton tortured after spy chiefs’ tip-off

MI5 and MI6 spies supplied information that led to the torture of a British citizen in India, apparently in breach of Britain’s commitment to human rights. 

Jagtar Singh Johal has been arbitrarily detained in India for five years and faces the death penalty over his alleged role in a Sikh extremist group. His case has been shrouded in mystery since his arrest in Punjab in 2017.

Now lawyers for Johal have lodged a complaint at the High Court after identifying his case among anonymised details published in the annual report by the UK’s investigatory powers commissioner. It lays out how MI5 and MI6 passed information to a foreign power about a British national who was detained and tortured.

The details precisely matched those of Johal’s case, revealing what his lawyers had long suspected was the hand of British intelligence in his abuse at the hands of the Indian authorities.

Gurpreet Singh Johal, Jagtar’s brother, said: “I never imagined the scenes I’d seen in horror movies of people being abducted by a foreign government and violently tortured could become a reality for someone in my family. When it did, I expected our government would do everything in its power to save my brother. The twist is that not only has our government abandoned one of its own citizens, it’s actively betrayed him.”

He said that his brother’s only “crime” was writing blogs exposing the Indian government’s “mistreatment” of Sikhs. He added: “The UK should be championing free speech around the world, not assisting repressive regimes to torture and lock up British nationals who dare to criticise them. We need answers and accountability to make sure no other British family is put through this living hell.”

Britain is bound by several international obligations not to surrender its citizens for torture. They include the UN Convention Against Torture and the European Convention on Human Rights, neither of which allow any exception.

Maya Foa, director of the charity Reprieve, said: “It was already a scandal that when a British national was snatched off the street by Indian authorities while on his honeymoon, Boris Johnson left him to rot for five years before finally admitting he was being arbitrarily detained. Now it appears the UK government hasn’t just been negligent, but may have unlawfully enabled his abduction and brutal torture through a tip-off to the Indian authorities.”