Date
21 July 2019
The Eastern Magistrates’ Court said it does not have the power to look into allegations regarding torture abroad, and that the issue has to be handled by the Immigration Department. Photo: HKEJ
The Eastern Magistrates’ Court said it does not have the power to look into allegations regarding torture abroad, and that the issue has to be handled by the Immigration Department. Photo: HKEJ

Court refuses to consider torture claim in extradition case

A local court has decided not to consider whether an Indian-born Hong Kong resident will be tortured if he is transferred to India for a trial on the ground that the case is not about human rights but only about jurisdiction over a fugitive, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

The Eastern Magistrates’ Court began to hear the case on Tuesday after New Delhi asked Hong Kong to extradite Ramanjit Singh, 30, who is wanted by Indian authorities for allegedly funding terrorism in the South Asian country.

Singh’s lawyer told the court on Wednesday that Singh would most likely be persecuted and his rights violated if he were handed over to Indian authorities because he is a supporter of a Sikh separatist movement.

As such, the court should put human rights issues pertaining to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment into consideration, his lawyer said.

The lawyer, who revealed that Singh had already been tortured when he was jailed in India previously because of his political views, said even though Hong Kong’s current extradition law, the Fugitive Offenders Ordinances (FOO), does not cover the issues oftorture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, the city still has the responsibility to consider the fact that he could be tortured in India based on the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance.

But in his decision on Wednesday, magistrate Pang Leung-ting said the court does not have the power to look into allegations regarding torture abroad.

The issue had to be dealt with under the unified screening mechanism of the Immigration Department, the magistrate said.

In addition, Pang said the defendant’s lawyer should provide sufficient evidence to show the accusations against Singh are classified under political crimes, or that his client is being persecuted for his race, religion, nationality or political views, or his client will be punished or his freedoms restricted once he is surrendered to Indian authorities.

The judge said the defense failed to prove that the Indian government is trying to use the crimes of which Singh was accused to cover its true intention of pursuing his political persecution.

As the court is just responsible for the committal proceedings of the case, it only has the duty and jurisdiction to handle the issues covered by the FOO.

In a Legco panel meeting on Wednesday, Secretary for Security John Lee Ka-chiu was asked if Singh would be extradited to India. Lee answered that he could not comment on the case as judicial proceedings are pending.

Still, Lee took the chance to stress that this kind of case is exactly what the government’s proposed amendments to the extradition law aim to deal with.

If someone comes to stay in Hong Kong after committing a serious crime overseas but the government has no effective ways to surrender the person to the place where the crime takes place, the person can then stay in Hong Kong for good, which is something everyone cannot accept, the security chief said.

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TL/JC/CG

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