The Ministry of External Affairs on Friday rejected the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention's appeal seeking the immediate release of AgustaWestland case accused Christian Michel. Functioning under the aegis of the UN Human Rights Council, the WGAD is a body of independent human rights experts that probes cases of arbitrary arrest and detention. A day earlier, it reportedly concluded that the British middleman's extradition was a "de facto swap" for India's capture and return of a high-profile detainee to Dubai in March 2018.
Calling for action to be taken against those responsible for violation of Michel's rights, it allegedly held that he deserves compensation and reparations from India and the UAE. Commenting on these "selective leaks" in the media, the MEA clarified that the WGAD's opinion is not legally binding as it is not a judicial body. Moreover, the Ministry made it clear that the UN panel's conclusions are based on biased allegations from an "unidentified source" and on an inaccurate understanding of the country's criminal justice system.
Maintaining that Michel's extradition was done in accordance with the Extradition Treaty signed between India and UAE, it added that he was never denied access to legal counsel or a fair hearing. It also stressed that the AgustaWestland case accused is being treated at par with other detainees as per the rules. Additionally, the MEA reminded the WGAD that India has a "robust grievance redressal mechanism" against allegations of human rights violations in an independent judiciary and the NHRC.
In a statement, MEA official spokesperson Anurag Srivasatava noted, "The allegations which form the basis of the opinion rendered by the Working Group are contrary to facts. The Government of India therefore, rejects the opinion rendered by the Working Group. India, as a responsible member of the Human Rights Council, will continue to cooperate with the Working Group and provide it with the necessary information to the extent possible under Indian laws, to promote and protect human rights of all."
Conclusions drawn by Working Group based on limited information, biased allegations from an unidentified source and on an inaccurate understanding of India’s criminal justice system:MEA spox on queries on opinion of Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concerning Christian Michel pic.twitter.com/q2w7yuVI2B— ANI (@ANI) February 26, 2021
Michel along with two other middlemen Carlo Gerosa and Guido Haschke is accused of bribing politicians and other officials to secure the VVIP chopper deal for AgustaWestland. Despite being a British national, Michel was successfully extradited to India from UAE on December 5, 2018. After spending a few days in the custody of both the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate, he was sent to judicial custody on January 5, 2019. Since then, he has been languishing in Tihar jail as both the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court dismissed his bail petition.