The government’s plea to extradite a man to China to face murder charges was delayed by New Zealand’s highest court on Friday, but it did not dismiss the request entirely, prolonging a court struggle that has gone on for over a decade.
The Supreme Court’s judgment came nearly two years after the Court of Appeal, citing human rights concerns, barred the extradition of Kyung Yup Kim, a New Zealand resident accused by China of killing a lady in Shanghai in December 2009.
The New Zealand government had appealed the decision.
The Supreme Court gave the government until the end of July to report back after seeking further assurances from China that Kim will be given a fair trial and won’t 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 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.
Ellis said he will be challenging the judgment before the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
Kim was detained in New Zealand for more than eight years, including five years in prison.
New Zealand, like many other Western countries, has no extradition treaty with China, therefore this is a first.
After seeking diplomatic guarantees on Kim’s care, a former Justice Minister twice ordered his extradition to China.
Kim’s extradition was blocked by the New Zealand Court of Appeal in June 2019, and the government was asked to reconsider its decision due to human rights concerns.