New Zealand court seeks more assurances as China extradition case drags on

WELLINGTON (REUTERS) – New Zealand’s highest court on Friday (June 4) adjourned an appeal by the government which sought to extradite a man to China to face murder charges but did not dismiss the request entirely, extending a court battle that has dragged on for over a decade.

The Supreme Court’s decision comes nearly two years after the Court of Appeal blocked the extradition of Kyung Yup Kim, a New Zealand resident accused by China of killing a woman while in Shanghai in December 2009, citing human rights risks.

The New Zealand government had appealed the decision.

The Supreme Court gave the government until the end of next month to report back after seeking further assurances from China that Kim will be given a fair trial and will not be in danger of ill-treatment or torture.

The court said Kim would not face a “real risk” of a flagrant denial of justice on extradition if the further assurances were received.

However, it dismissed a plea from Kim that no reasonable minister could ever decide to surrender him to the Chinese authorities. His lawyers had argued against extradition, citing the human rights situation in China, the delays in the case and Kim’s mental health.

Kim’s lawyer Tony Ellis said he was surprised and disappointed by the decision.

“We will of course engage fully with the opportunity to provide further information and submissions and hope that will lead the Court to the conclusion, as found in the Court of Appeal, that Mr Kim cannot be safely extradited,” he said in a statement.

Mr Ellis said he will be challenging the judgement before the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

Kim spent more than eight years in detention in New Zealand, including over five years in prison.

The case is a first for New Zealand, which, like many other Western nations, has no extradition treaty with China.

A former justice minister twice ordered South Korean-born Kim extradited to China, after seeking diplomatic assurances on his treatment.

In June 2019, New Zealand’s Court of Appeal blocked Kim’s extradition and asked the government to reassess its decision due to human rights risks.

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