23 May 2013:HKRAC takes the government to task in LEGCO
Accountability is the cornerstone of democratic governance and rule of law.
It requires public officials to be responsible:to have clearly defined duties and operate in a transparent and effective manner; to be answerable:to provide reasoned justifications for their actions and decisions to those they affect and hear their concerns;and,to enforce:to abide by established standards and take corrective action in the case of noncompliance.
When accountability is not given because of a lack of political will,it must actively be demanded. As part of HKRAC’s advocacy efforts to defend refugees’ rights and make their voices heard to the government,HKRAC participated in a meeting by the Panel on Constitutional Affairs held this Monday,May 20.
The meeting was held in the Legislative Council (LEGCO),which has an important oversight role in holding the Executive Council more regularly to account. The Panel opened the floor to 38 civil society representatives during the discussion about implementing the recommendations recently issued to HKSAR by the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UN HRC) in March 2013.
HKRAC Executive Director Aleta Miller addressed LEGCO in an oral intervention,welcoming the recommendations by the UN HRC,a treaty body entrusted with monitoring states’ compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).[i]
In our speech,HKRAC noted that by neglecting the rights of refugees,the government has failed to comply with its obligations under the ICCPR and other human rights instruments to respect and ensure the human rights of everyone who is subject to its jurisdiction,without discrimination.
HKRAC and Amnesty International Hong Kong,both members of the Refugee Concern Network,requested the government to provide more information and a timeline on how it is planning to implement the recent C and Ubamaka judgments handed down by the Court of Final Appeal.
In this process,HKRAC urged the government to consult with organizations that have a wealth of expertise in the area of human rights and refugee law—including the academic community,legal experts,the UNHCR,civil society actors such as HKRAC,as well as the asylum-seekers,refugees and CAT claimants themselves.
HKRAC called on the government to address some of the challenges with the existing statutory screening mechanism for torture claimants—including concerns about extremely low recognition rates.
We also reminded the government that any future screening mechanism must ensure that asylum-seekers,refugees and torture claimants are able to access quality legal assistance and counseling to ensure high standards of fairness and compliance with human rights norms.
Responding to the government’s call for submissions,HKRAC also issued a more detailed written statement to the Panel and LEGCO members elaborating our concerns and offering recommendations to the Hong Kong government.
- HKRAC’s Written Submission submitted on May 14 to the Panel on Constitutional Affairs regarding the UN Human Rights Committee hearing may be accessed here.
- HKRAC’s Oral Intervention at the LEGCO Panel on Constitutional Affairs on May 20,2012 may be accessed here.
[i] UN HRC’s Paragraph 9 of its Concluding Observations to the Hong Kong government:
“While noting with appreciation the Hong Kong,China’s cooperation with UNHCR to ensure protection of refugees and asylum-seekers,the Committee regrets that Hong Kong,China maintains a position not to seek the extension of the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol,and that persons facing deportation proceedings are not always covered by safeguards established in the Covenant. The Committee expresses concern about allegations that deportation operations are not properly monitored by the relevant oversight bodies (articles 2,6,7 and 13).”
“In light of the Committee’s previous recommendations (CCPR/C/HKG/CO/2,para.10),Hong Kong,China should ensure that all persons in need of international protection receive appropriate and fair treatment at all stages ,in compliance with the Covenant. The Hong Kong,China authorities should recognise the absolute character of prohibition of return to a location where the individual faces a real risk of torture or cruel,inhuman or degrading treatment,also emphasized in the judgement of the Court of Final Appeal in Ubamaka v. Secretary for Security &Anor (FACV 15/2011,21 December 2012). Hong Kong,China is urged not to set an inappropriate high threshold for recognizing a real risk of ill- treatment on return.”