New Zealand court responds to China’s extradition request for murder suspect in landmark case

Chinese authorities accuse Kyung Yup Kim, a South Korean resident of New Zealand, of killing a woman in Shanghai in 2009, according to court documents.

China first requested his extradition from New Zealand in 2011, but Kim’s lawyers claimed he could be tortured and would not receive a fair trial under the country’s unclear justice system, leading to years of legal quarrels.

Like many Western countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, New Zealand does not have an extradition treaty with China.

In its ruling, New Zealand’s Supreme Court of three judges for two ruled that Kim’s extradition should continue. The three proponents said they had received adequate assurances from China and were “satisfied that there was no real risk that Mr Kim would face an unfair trial.”

Chinese authorities had assured the court that if Kim was extradited, Kim would have access to New Zealand’s consular staff and be prosecuted and detained in Shanghai instead of being sent elsewhere in the country, according to the verdict.

The court added that it felt confident that China would stick to its word, citing “the strength of (China’s) motivation to honor the assurances” and “the strength of the bilateral relationship between the two countries. ”

Kim’s lawyers had argued that the high-profile nature of this case and its sensitivity to Chinese authorities put him at high risk. In Wednesday’s ruling, the court disagreed, saying he was “an ordinary criminal suspect” because he “does not belong to a minority group and is not a political prisoner.”

In a statement to CNN, Tony Ellis, Kim’s lead lawyer, said Kim was “very disappointed with the verdict.”

The team will combat extradition by filing a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee and seeking a new judicial review if necessary, Ellis said.

He cited the more than two years the Supreme Court had taken to reach its decision, and Kim’s numerous health problems – including major depression, a small brain tumor and liver and kidney disease – as grounds for objection.

Following China’s initial extradition request in 2011, Kim had been detained for five years and then given bail on the condition he bore. an ankle bracelet, making him the longest-serving prisoner without trial in New Zealand’s modern history, Ellis said.

The case against Kim

According to court documents, Kim has lived in New Zealand since he was 14 years old. His mother is also a permanent resident of New Zealand, while his father, brother and two children are nationals.

The case against him dates back to December 2009, when a young woman who worked as a waitress at a bar was found dead in Shanghai, according to court documents. At the time, Kim was visiting Shanghai and had rented an apartment there.

Pieces of a duvet were found on her body – which was identified by Kim’s then girlfriend as the body of one he owned. When police searched Kim’s apartment, they found samples that matched the waitress’ DNA.

Kim had also told a contact in a phone conversation that he may have killed a sex worker, according to police.

Court documents said there was evidence to suggest the waitress may have participated in sex work.

Kim has denied the allegations of murder.

Legal battle

Following China’s first extradition request, the New Zealand courts ruled in 2013 that Kim could be extradited and that decision was confirmed two years later by the Minister of Justice. However, Kim filed a lawsuit and successfully challenged the decision.

After receiving further assurances from China that they would treat Kim humanely, the Minister decided in 2016 to recommend Kim’s extradition a second time.

Kim once again challenged the decision – first without success at the High Court and then successfully at the Court of Appeal in 2019.

The case then went to the Supreme Court for a final decision.

At the time, the Chinese Foreign Ministry had called on New Zealand to extradite Kim “as soon as possible so that justice can be done for the victim”, and defended the Chinese legal system which respects “the legal rights of suspects for criminals.”

In China, courts, prosecutors and police are overseen by the Chinese Communist Party’s powerful Central Commission on Political and Legal Affairs and its local branches.

China’s legal system has a conviction rate of around 99%, according to legal observers. Human rights defenders say unfair trials and torture and ill-treatment of prisoners are common.

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