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HKSAR Government committed to protecting human rights

    The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) is committed to protecting human rights and to complying fully and effectively with the requirements and commitments under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).

     This was affirmed by Deputy Solicitor General, Mr James O'Neil, who led the HKSAR team attending the hearing held by the United Nations Committee Against Torture in Geneva, Switzerland today (November 7, Geneva time). The team, which comprises representatives of the Department of Justice, the Security Bureau and the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, is attending as part of the China delegation for the UN hearing of the China Report under CAT, of which the Hong Kong report formed a part.

     Reporting to the Committee on the implementation of the Convention in Hong Kong, Mr O'Neil said the HKSAR benefited not only from the human rights protection in the common law but also from the extensive protection of human rights in the Basic Law, under the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance and other legislative measures.

     In particular, the requirement that no one shall be subjected to torture or other forms of ill-treatment under Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is entrenched in the Basic Law.

     No law passed by the legislature may contravene the Basic Law. Nor may any administrative measure be inconsistent with the Basic Law.

     "The article is implemented at the domestic level through the Hong Kong Bill of Rights Ordinance. These requirements are enforced in our courts by an independent judiciary," Mr O'Neil said.

     Addressing the Committee on developments in three areas which were of special interest to Members of the Committee, Mr O'Neil said, with the passage of the Independent Police Complaints Council Ordinance in July 2008, the independent body which oversaw complaints against the police had been placed on a statutory basis.

     Concerns expressed both by the Committee and domestically about the exercise by the Police of their powers to search detained persons had been addressed in the new Guidelines on Searching of Detained Persons which had been introduced and applied by the Police since July 1, 2008, he said.

     Noting that they stipulated more stringent requirements in respect of the scope of searches which might be carried out on detainees, the procedure to be adopted and keeping of records of searches conducted, he said the HKSAR Government would monitor the implementation of the Guidelines to ensure that frontline officers give due regard to the privacy and dignity of the detainees when conducting searches.

     With regard to the screening of torture claimants, he said the HKSAR Government had put in place mechanisms to ensure that high standards of procedural fairness were applied in the assessment of claims.

Ends/Friday, November 7, 2008