Portugal refuses to extradite Abu Salem

The moral equivalence between Portugal and the Taliban

Abu Salem committed his worst crimes in India, against Indians. Yet, a Portuguese court has shielded him from justice under Indian laws. Portugal’s Supreme Court has found it more appropriate to protect an international criminal over the assurances of the Indian government’s assurance that the death penalty will not be sought in case he is found guilty.

The verdict has further strengthened opportunities for international legal arbitrage by allows criminals to commit a crime in a certain jurisdiction and stand trial for it elsewhere. The obvious is to commit capital offense in one country and escape to a country where the death penalty is a crime.

Portugal’s verdict is both against the principles of justice as well as counter-productive to its own interests. Judging by outcomes alone, Portugal’s sheltering of Abu Salem is no different from the Taliban’s refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden.

If countries like Bangladesh or Malaysia were to behave similarly, the international community would have raised an outcry, blaming these countries of nurturing Islamic terrorism; but because Portugal is a European country, its actions are deemed superior due to its great concern for human rights. Spain and Belgium find it appropriate to ask for the extradition of former heads of state like General Pinochet of Chile to stand trial for crimes against humanity, but their European neighbour sees no need to dispatch a wanted terrorist and gangster to face trial in India, where not only has the government guaranteed immunity from the death sentence, but also where the new government has announced its determination to repeal tough anti-terror legislation.

India must take up the issue of extradition of suspects in right earnest.

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