The Court of Appeal has quashed a decision from the previous government to extradite a New Zealand permanent resident to the People's Republic of China, citing serious concerns about that country's human rights record.
Korean citizen Kyung Yup Kim is accused of murdering a 20-year-old woman in Shanghai in 2009.
Chinese authorities had requested the extradition of Kim from New Zealand in 2011 and then Justice Minister Amy Adams sought assurances from China that Kim would not be tortured and would receive a fair trial before twice approving extradition.
In a decision released today, the Court of Appeal has quashed that decision citing the "difficulty that exists in obtaining assurances adequate to meet the risk of torture in a country where torture is illegal yet remains widespread because of cultural and systemic features of the PRC criminal justice system."
Kim's lawyer, Dr Tony Ellis, said in a statement today, "It is a judgement that has profound human rights importance which will resonate throughout the Common Law world - it is not just important in New Zealand."
He said Justice Minister Andrew Little "will have a difficult, if impossible, task" over the "profound and important questions posed by the Court of Appeal."
Mr Little will now reconsider the extradition request.
Kim is currently on electronic bail in Auckland.
A 'rights-affirming' decision
Human rights lawyer Michael Bott has labelled the Court of Appeal’s judgement to quash a decision to extradite a man to the People’s Republic of China a “rights-affirming” decision.
“This is a stunning endorsement of the seriousness of which ministry officials and courts should regard our obligations in terms of international treaties on human rights and fair trial rights,” he said.
Mr Bott said the People’s Republic of China holds an “impressive record” of saying it will do something, and then not following through.
He said the previous Justice Minister Amy Adams made a “cursory, lightweight decision” by approving Kyung Yup Kim’s extradition, and said that the impact on trade relations may have been considered.
“The Minister has to do more than just be a rubber stamp,” Mr Bott said.
Mr Bott said as the People’s Republic of China has signed but not ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, whether they would follow their assurances for the treatment of Kyung Yup Kim was not guaranteed.
After requesting comment from Ms Adams, a spokesperson for the National Party said in a statement that cases like this are "very difficult and involve serious and considered deliberation".
"The then minister made what we believe were the right decisions. It is now a matter for this Government to consider," the spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for Justice Minister Andrew Little said Mr Little is aware of the judgement announced today, but because the Crown will need to consider the decision and its next steps, it would inappropriate to comment further.
The Court of Appeal's full judgement can be read here.