Indo-UAE prisoner swap, anti-terror pacts signed

Indo-UAE prisoner swap, anti-terror pacts signed

The UAE and India signed two agreements aimed at enhancing security cooperation for combating terrorism and organised crimes, and transfer of prisoners.

DUBAI/NEW DELHI — In a significant development, the UAE and India on Wednesday signed two agreements aimed at enhancing security cooperation for combating terrorism and organised crimes, and transfer of prisoners.

UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Lieutenant-General Shaikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram signed the agreements in New Delhi.

According to a spokesperson of the Indian Home Ministry quoted by Indian news agencies, the two leaders also held discussions on “issues pertaining to bilateral security cooperation between (the) two countries”.

Mixed reactions to prisoner exchange plan expected

The historic prisoner exchange programme between the UAE and India is expected to draw a mixed response from Indian prisoners in the UAE jails, according to those associated with the Indian missions’ jail visits.

According to figures released by the Indian embassy, there are about 1,200 Indian convicts in the UAE jails. Those who have to be behind bars for more than six months can avail the option of serving their remaining term back in India.

“Quite a number of prisoners don’t want people back home to know that they are behind bars. Such prisoners would not want to avail this option,” said K Kumar, convener of the Indian Community Welfare Committee that has helped release many Indians languishing in UAE jails after being unable to pay blood money even after serving their jail terms. “But definitely there will be people serving long-term sentences who would want to be closer to their families so that they can get to see their relatives and friends once in a while,” he said. A volunteer assisting consular officials during jail visits also agreed that many Indians sentenced for long-term imprisonment are likely to opt for the transfer as they are longing to see their families.

“But, many prisoners say that the conditions in the UAE prisons are better and they don’t want to be transferred,” he said.

Indian Ambassador to the UAE MK Lokesh said authorities concerned would conduct a survey of prisoners wishing to be transferred to Indian jails after officially informing them about the clauses of the pact.

A leading Indian advocate noted that the agreement was likely to lead to the expedition in the disposal of cases.

“Considering the expenditure met by the local authorities per day per prisoner, the implementation of the pact is likely to expedite the disposal of pending cases. It is also likely to avoid any chance of implicating one person in crimes other than he has proven to have committed,” said the lawyer who did not wish to be named.

The pact on security cooperation seeks to strengthen and develop the existing bilateral framework to enhance security cooperation in areas such as combating terrorism in all forms, addressing activities of organised criminal groups, drug trafficking, illicit trafficking in weapons, ammunition, explosives and initiatives on training of personnel.

The agreement on transfer of sentenced persons provides the framework to facilitate the social rehabilitation of sentenced persons in their respective countries by giving citizens of the contracting states, who have been convicted and sentenced as a result of commission of a criminal offence, the opportunity to serve the sentence in their own society.

There are around 1,200 Indians imprisoned in the UAE for various crimes, including drugs and fraud. There is only one UAE national presently in an Indian jail. The pact will apply to those who have already been convicted and not to under-trials.

The two leaders extensively discussed issues pertaining to bilateral security cooperation, issues relating to drug trafficking, security and capacity-building so as to enhance cooperation to combat organised crimes, the spokesperson said.

On terrorism, both countries stressed their commitment to stepping up cooperation in investigating mutually relevant criminal cases and sharing of relevant information in this regard.

Under the historic prisoner exchange programme, any Indian sentenced in the UAE, who is to be transferred to Indian jail, must have a minimum of six months of jail term left and there shouldn’t be any pending case against him.

Since suspects undergoing trial cannot be transferred, the only Emirati prisoner in India can be transferred only if he is sentenced.

Speaking to Khaleej Times, the Indian Ambassador to the UAE, M.K. Lokesh, acknowledged that the security agreement is very significant at this point of time that requires larger cooperation between countries to fight terrorism. “It will increase the strength of the already existing cooperation.”

Regarding the prisoner-swap programme, he said both the countries are yet to finalise the technicalities involved in the implementation of the pact.

“What I can say now is that it (availing the option of serving jail term in home country) is applicable to all convicted Indians in the UAE and in cases where the crime is acknowledged as a crime in both the countries,” he said.

The diplomat said the authorities would come up with a mechanism to inform the prisoners about the provisions of the pact once the technical formalities have been finalised. -

(With inputs from agencies)

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