Major public order events in Hong Kong have caused the complaints against the police officers to rise in number. The case was heard in the Hong Kong High Court on the accusations that the mechanism for handling complaints on police officers breaches the rights under the Bill of Rights. The suit was bought by the Hong Kong Journalists Association against the Commissioner of Police and the Secretary of Justice. The allegation is of police brutality against the protesters who had gathered to protest the extradition bill.
Violation of the Bill of Rights
Section 3 of the bill of rights states that “No one must be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment…”. The main contention is that section 3 of the BOR is absolute and non-degradable. This essentially means that these rights cannot be forgone in any kind of emergencies at no cost. Under article 7 of the BOR, there is a procedural obligation on the part of the government if there are any violations of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), for the prompt investigation of any breach by the state agents.
The current police force in Hong Kong has a two-tier system for managing and handling the complaints against the officers. The complaints against police office (CAPO) and then the complaints lie before the Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC). The protests in Hong Kong have led to a floodgate of complaints since early 2019. To deal with this, the police force and the CAPO have laid down several special investigation teams. The IPCC is an independent statutory body which overlooks the handling of the complaints. The council has powers to observe, monitor and to advise the commissioner. The CAPO’s investigation reports are reviewable by the IPCC. Nut the procedural obstruction is that there is no authority of the IPCC to overturn the decision that has been passed by the CAPO.
The court stated that the two-tier mechanism that is present in Hong Kong to deal with complaints failed the requirements of an independent investigation system. The court also went into the aspect of police officers having conspicuous and visible identification numbers or marks while carrying out duties. It held that this would not directly harm their identities but should be done given the transparency and the ease of investigation. It ruled against the government and asked for it to establish a mechanism with all requirements.
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