Bar Association says fugitives law changes will remove protections

Local | 15 May 2019 6:46 pm

Twelve of Hong Kong's most respected barristers issued a joint statement today warning that the government's proposed changes to extradition laws would strip traditional safeguards from people accused of committing serious crimes outside of the territory. 
The current and 11 former chairmen of the Hong Kong Bar Association said there are other ways to address a murder case involving a local resident in Taiwan, despite claims to the contrary by government officials.
The statement said they were dismayed by the government's insistence on pushing through the amendments to the Fugitive Offenders Ordinance without a proper consultation. The proposed changes would enable Hong Kong to send wanted people to any other jurisdiction, including the mainland, via one-off deals.
The legal heavyweights said that if the changes are approved, then traditional safeguards that ensure that suspects of serious crimes can only be transferred to places with "compatible and comparable" legal jurisdictions would be circumvented.
The barristers said "a simple statement by the Chief Executive, without any ability of scrutiny by the legislature" would be enough to set in motion a process that could see defendants extradited to places where their rights may not be of an internationally accepted standard.
They also said that supporters of the extradition law changes have been misleading people by repeatedly saying that local judges will effectively act as gatekeepers. 
The legal experts said it has never been a function of the courts to consider the legal system and procedures of a foreign jurisdiction during applications for extradition. They said the proposed legislation does not give the SAR's courts the power to review these matters.
They further expressed dismay about Justice Secretary Teresa Cheng's rejection of all alternative proposals to address the 2018 Taiwan murder – which the government has used as the basis for its efforts to amend the laws. A Hong Kong woman was allegedly murdered by her boyfriend in Taipei while the couple were on holiday.
The twelve barristers said that an alternative proposal giving Hong Kong courts the power to try serious crimes, such as murder, that take place outside of the territory, would not be against the spirit or principles of common law. 
And they said backdating a law to include the Taiwan murder case would not be incompatible with the protection of human rights either, as murder has always been an offence in Hong Kong.-Photo: RTHK


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