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AUCKLAND, New Zealand – The New Zealand Supreme Court ruled on Friday that a murder suspect can be extradited to China, but only if the Beijing government receives sufficient assurances that he will not be tortured and given a fair trial.
The decision, with three judges in favor and two against, came after 15 months of deliberation and overturned an appeal court ruling that defendant Kyung Yup Kim, who is in his 40s, cannot be safely extradited because of China’s human rights record .
Mr. Kim is accused of killing Chinese Peiyun Chen, 20, while on vacation in Shanghai in 2009. Chinese authorities said that before Mr. Kim could be interrogated, he had left for South Korea, where he was born, before becoming a legal resident in New Zealand as a teenager.
It was the first time China asked New Zealand for the extradition of a citizen or resident. Like most western countries, New Zealand does not have an extradition treaty with China. Mr. Kim has been fighting the extradition request for 10 years. He spent five years in prison before being released on bail in Auckland.
New Zealand’s previous center-right government, in office from 2008 to 2017, ordered Mr. Kim’s extradition twice. Both times the courts ordered the Justice Minister to reconsider the case.
Mr. Kim and his attorney Tony Ellis have argued that “no reasonable minister” could bring the case to extradition, given China’s human rights situation. In a statement following Friday’s ruling, Mr. Ellis condemned the decision and reiterated his belief that his client could not be safely extradited.
“The People’s Republic of China is a rogue state under the Chinese Communist Party,” Ellis said. “It practices endemic torture, does not guarantee fair trials, and generally rejects the basic premise that it must respect international human rights law. The New Zealand government has repeatedly called on China for violating its international obligations, particularly those relating to human rights. “
Foreigners accused in China were interviewed behind closed doors for only a few hours, and some reported torture during interrogation. Yang Hengjun, a Chinese-born Australian national charged with espionage, said he was tortured over a period of months while Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, also charged with espionage, have been in jail and on trial since 2018 were asked. No judgments have been issued yet.
Concerns about China’s rights have played a role in extradition issues in other parts of the region. In 2017, Australia withdrew from a planned extradition treaty with China because it was skeptical of its repressive legal system.
In its 150-page ruling on Friday, the Supreme Court stated that the cabinet minister responsible for approving the Chinese request could sign the extradition of Mr. Kim if the minister received evidence from the Chinese government that “there are no valid reasons for doing so Acceptance “. that Mr. Kim would be at risk of torture if he were to hand over. “
The court set out the circumstances in which such assurances could be relied upon and specific instructions the New Zealand government would need to receive in order to permit the extradition, including permission to monitor the suspect every 48 hours.
The Supreme Court gave the New Zealand government until the end of July to seek assurances from China and to report back.
New Zealand’s relationship with China has come under scrutiny recently, especially as tensions between China and Australia have increased. Following a meeting in New Zealand this week, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia raised concerns about China’s activities in a number of areas, including Hong Kong and the South China Sea. A spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry dismissed her statements as “irresponsible” and “baseless”.
Charlotte Graham-McLay Contribution to coverage from Wellington, New Zealand.