Following is the translation of the speech by the Secretary for Security, Mrs Regina Ip, in moving the resolution on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (Switzerland) Order in the Legislative Council today (June 27):
I move that the resolution to make the Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (Switzerland) Order be passed.
The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region is fully committed to international cooperation in combating serious crimes. In this connection, we have embarked on a programme to establish a network of bilateral agreements with other jurisdictions on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters. These agreements ensure reciprocity between the contracting parties, and enhance international cooperation in the fight against transnational crime. We have so far signed eight agreements with other jurisdictions on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters. These include Australia, France, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Italy, South Korea and Switzerland.
The Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Ordinance ("the Ordinance") provides the necessary statutory framework for providing assistance in the investigation, and prosecution of criminal offences which includes the taking of evidence from witnesses, search and seizure, production of materials, transfer of persons to give evidence and confiscation of the proceeds of crime, etc.
Pursuant to section 4(2) of the Ordinance, the Chief Executive in Council has made this Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters Order to implement the bilateral arrangements with Switzerland for mutual legal assistance in criminal matters. This Order specifies the scope and procedures in relation to the provision of assistance. It also provides for safeguards of the rights of persons involved in criminal proceedings. This Order is substantially in conformity with the provisions in the Ordinance. However, as mutual legal assistance practices vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, it is necessary to modify some of the provisions of the Ordinance to reflect the practice of the particular negotiating partner. These are necessary to enable Hong Kong to comply with its obligations in the particular agreement. The modifications in respect to the Agreement with Switzerland are summarised in the Schedule to the Order.
I would like to thank the Chairman, the Honourable James To and Members of the Subcommittee for their careful examination of this Order, and for their understanding and support.
An aspect which the Subcommittee has deliberated in detail concerns the arrangements for notification of imprisonment of nationals under Article 15 of the Agreement. This provision obliges each party to provide information on nationals of the other party who have been sentenced to imprisonment within its jurisdiction. Members are concerned that some Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) permanent residents might not wish to have the information on their imprisonment made known to the HKSAR Government. I should explain that Article 15 is to facilitate the provision of consular assistance, and is consistent with the European Convention and a number of consular agreements applicable to the HKSAR, e.g. the consular agreements with the US and the UK. Article 15 would enable HKSARG to render assistance to Hong Kong permanent residents imprisoned in Switzerland. This would be in line with the public expectation. We believe that the general public would want the Government to provide every possible assistance to Hong Kong residents in distress outside Hong Kong. In view of Members' concern, we shall make our best endeavours to further explore with the Switzerland authorities to see if we could institute an appropriate and balanced notification system which would, on the one hand, enable both parties to fulfil the obligations under the Agreement, and on the other hand, could also have regard to the wish of certain individuals who might not wish the HKSAR Government to know about their imprisonment in Switzerland. The Subcommittee supports our approach, for which we are very grateful.
To strengthen our co-operation with Switzerland in criminal justice and international law enforcement, it is very important that this Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (Switzerland) Order be made to enable the relevant bilateral agreement to be brought into force. I urge Members to approve the making of this Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters (Switzerland) Order.
Thank you, President.
End/Tuesday, June 27, 2000