It’s not every day that Cory Bernardi and Amnesty International are on the same page.
But the conservative senator and the human rights organisation have both flagged major concerns about the Turnbull government’s plans to ratify an extradition treaty with China.
Ten years after the Howard government signed the extradition treaty, and days before Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visits Australia to discuss the legal agreement, the senator and the human rights group have questioned the protections in place to stop the death penalty being implemented for serious crimes. China executes more people than any other nation.
The treaty was quietly tabled on March 2, is on track to be ratified by July, and will facilitate each of the nations returning an accused criminal to the other to face trial.
Liberal-turned Australian Conservatives leader Senator Bernardi told Fairfax Media that he did not know why ratification had been delayed 10 years but “no public case to justify it [the treaty] has been made”.
In 2015, a staggering 1.232 million people were found guilty by Chinese courts, while 1039 people accused were found to be innocent – a conviction rate of 99.92 per cent – a fact that Senator Bernardi said made him question the impartiality of the legal system.
“This is a red flag to my support for the rule of law and I cannot justify an extradition agreement with China any more that I can with Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan,” he said.
An Amnesty submission on the treaty flagged a number of concerns about the human rights safeguards that were in place.
“How would Australia monitor what is happening in China to ensure the Chinese government is upholding its undertaking? Would the Australian government continue to ensure whoever is subject to extradition has not been in fact been sentenced to death or executed?”
Labor, the Greens and the Senate crossbench will have 15 sitting days of parliament to disallow the treaty. Combined with Senator Bernardi’s support, just two more Senate votes will be needed to block it coming into effect.
Australia will be the first member of the “five eyes” intelligence community to ratify an extradition treaty with China, and one of the few Western countries, alongside France and Spain, to do so.
Last December, the treaties committee recommended ratification while recommending safeguards to “strengthen the protection of individual human rights”.
A spokesman for Justice Minister Michael Keenan said the treaty would allow Australia to refuse extradition where a person could face the death penalty, torture, cruel treatment, or face political charges.
“All extradition requests are considered by the relevant minister on a case-by-case basis. The safeguards in this treaty combined with the Extradition Act enable the minister to consider all relevant humanitarian considerations.”
The Law Council of Australia has also warned the undertakings from China not to carry out the death penalty are not legally enforceable.
“There is no consequence,” it said in its submission last year. What is Australia going to do? What is the reality? Is Australia going to try to haul China before the International Court of Justice? It is a joke.”
The extradition treaty would not operate as a prisoner swap, so would not facilitate the return of Australians who had been convicted of breaking laws in China.
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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.