Rights group questions suitability of Canadian appointee to watchdog

Local | 6 Sep 2019 12:35 pm

Hong Kong human rights group Civil Rights Observer has criticized the decision to appoint a former head of a civilian police watchdog in Canada as a member of a panel looking into the SAR's ongoing unrest, noting that he was recently embroiled in a scandal in his home country.

Lawyer Gerry McNeilly, who was until recently the province of Ontario's Independent Police Review Director, is one of five foreign experts appointed to an Independent Police Complaints Council panel that will carry out a fact-finding study into Hong Kong's unrest, amid persistent claims of police brutality.

But the Canadian Press news agency reported in January that a court had found McNeilly had undermined the integrity of an investigation into an abuse claim against a Toronto officer when he set aside his watchdog's own finding of serious misconduct following undisclosed "back-channel chats" with the police.

The city's Divisional Court said McNeilly had compromised the watchdog's independence with the "inappropriate and unfair" communication and it set aside the watchdog's findings in the case, Canadian Press said.

Civil Rights Observer founder Icarus Wong questioned today whether McNeilly is suitable for the IPCC and said the body must explain why it has chosen him for the panel.
"The allegation involved is very serious and the court said he had damaged the complaints system in Canada against the police so I think he's not really appropriate to be one of the experts involved in the investigation in Hong Kong," Wong said.
He also told RTHK's Janice Wong that there are already doubts as to the independence of the IPCC and the appointment of McNeilly will only add to concerns about this.
"The integrity and the independence of the committee and the experts is most important to the credibility of the findings and also the report that they make. I think the IPCC should reconsider whether they should invite Mr McNeilly to be one of the members of the expert team because of this allegation [against him]."
Chief Executive Carrie Lam said on Wednesday that the government will fully support the work of the IPCC panel. But critics say the fact-finding study will be no replacement for a commission of inquiry with investigative powers, which remains one of the major demands of anti-government protesters.

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