BHRC Chair Schona Jolly QC and IBAHRI Director Helena Kennedy QC have issued the following joint statement for the Centre for Comparative and Public Law Conference “Extradition and Human Rights: Does the Hong Kong Government’s Bill Provide Sufficient Safeguard for Our Rights“:

The Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales (BHRC) and the Human Rights Institute of the International Bar Association (IBAHRI) are deeply concerned about the Hong Kong government’s proposed amendments to two Hong Kong laws concerning extradition, the Fugitive Offenders’ Ordinance (FOO) and the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance (MLACMO). Extradition law must  ensure and contain safeguard for the protection of human rights: Surrender of any individual pursuant to an extradition request must not result in a breach of the individual’s human rights.  Both BHRC and IBAHRI consider that the proposed changes to Hong Kong’s extradition law, which will broaden the current extradition arrangements to Mainland China and introduce potentially arbitrary assessments, is likely to have the effect that individuals surrendered are at real and serious risk of their human rights being violated. This includes exposure to grave violations, including torture and other ill-treatment. China’s human rights record remains a matter of grave concern. Moreover, serious concerns about China’s justice system, including its lack of independence, mean that fair trial rights are severely jeopardised for those surrendered, potentially on a political case-by-case basis, bringing the risk of real crisis to the rule of law in Hong Kong.    

We appreciate that Hong Kong is an international hub and its extradition laws are of importance not just for the people and residents of Hong Kong, but more widely including those travelling or working or passing through Hong Kong. The wide range of people potentially likely to be affected by the proposed changes place these proposals squarely into an international context, as well as a matter of fundamental domestic concern. It is imperative that the rule of law, coupled with the protection of human rights in Hong Kong, requires jealous guarding and careful consideration. It is a complex issue which cannot afford the luxury of complacency or error. Both of our organisations call upon the government of Hong Kong to place the human rights concerns, protected through Hong Kong’s international legal obligations, squarely at the forefront of its extradition laws. This requires the immediate suspension of the proposals to ensure careful analysis of the context and consequences for Hong Kong and the wider international community.

We regret that we could not be with you today at this important conference, but we are delighted that Mark Summers QC, of Matrix Chambers and the BHRC, was able to share with you his expertise of the interaction between extradition and human rights law in the UK; and we are keen to be updated on the outcomes of Tuesday’s conference.

Helena Kennedy QC, Director of IBAHRI

Schona Jolly QC, Chair of BHRC