PERU: Extradition of Chinese Citizen at Risk of Death Penalty Halted

  • by Ángel Páez (lima)
  • Inter Press Service

The Peruvian government officially informed China in a letter addressed to Ambassador Zhao Wuyi that it will not hand Wong over until the Costa Rica-based Court, part of the Organisation of American States' (OAS) human rights system, reaches a decision on Wong's petition for provisional measures.

Provisional measures are used by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to prevent irreparable harm to the rights and freedoms of persons who are in a situation of extreme gravity and urgency, including aliens under orders of deportation or extradition and those sentenced to capital punishment.

Wong, a businessman living in Lima with his wife and two children, was arrested at Lima airport Oct. 27, 2008 when he was about to leave the country. He faces charges in China of money laundering and bribery as well as customs tax fraud, a capital crime under Chinese law.

The Peruvian Justice Ministry and Supreme Court agreed to China's extradition request, in spite of the international conventions Peru has signed prohibiting the handing over of citizens to countries where they may face execution.

The Peruvian authorities were satisfied by a letter from China's Supreme People's Court containing assurances that Wong would not be sentenced to death if found guilty.

Wong's defence lawyers appealed to the Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), another OAS body.

On Mar. 25, when Wong was about to be sent back to China, the executive secretary of the IACHR, Santiago Cantón, informed Peru that the Inter-American Court had requested suspension of the extradition process until it had reached a ruling on the Chinese citizen's request for precautionary measures.

The Peruvian government of President Alan García complied with the Court's request.

In a letter dated Apr. 6, Chinese ambassador Zhao protested against Peru's decision, reminding the authorities of the extradition treaty in force between China and Peru.

On Apr. 26 María Landaveri, a senior official at the Foreign Ministry with responsibility for Asia, the Pacific, Africa and the Middle East, replied to ambassador Zhao explaining the procedure followed by Peru in this case.

Landaveri wrote to ambassador Zhao 'at the special request of the President (Alan García),' saying that at first the executive branch of Peru had arrested Wong and initiated the extradition process requested by China in accordance with national laws and the extradition treaty signed by both countries.

Wong then appealed to the Inter-American Court to try to block his extradition, according to the Peruvian diplomat, who thus made it clear that the government had done what it could to extradite Wong.

'This Chinese citizen has made use of the guarantees of due process under Peruvian law, and has appealed to a supranational body, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the international competence of which is recognised by Peru,' Landaveri told Zhao.

'The Inter-American Court has taken urgent measures requiring the Peruvian state to refrain from extraditing Mr. Wong Ho Wing until his application for provisional measures has been decided on by the Court in full session,' she added.

Landaveri said in her letter that 'the right and proper course of action is for Peru to wait for the final verdict of this body (the Inter-American Court) in order to make a final decision in this case.'

Wong's defence lawyer took the view that the letter shows that Lima is making every effort to satisfy the Chinese government, with which it signed a free trade agreement on Apr. 28, 2009.

'The letter from the Foreign Ministry shows that the Peruvian government was in favour of the extradition at all times, in spite of the fact that the death penalty is prohibited in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as well as by the Peruvian constitution,' Wong's lawyer, Luis Lamas Puccio, told IPS.

The government is basically 'apologising to the Chinese ambassador for not being able to extradite him (Wong) yet, showing that from the beginning it had promised to do so. This means that even the justice system bent over backwards to hand him over,' he said.

'Mr. Ambassador, the government of the People's Republic of China must be assured that Peru, while fully complying with the legislation in force on this matter, has absolutely no wish to cast the slightest shadow on the excellent bilateral relations between the two countries,' the letter says.

On Mar. 31, 2009, Cantón wrote to President García alerting him to the fact that extradition of a citizen to a country where he faces the death penalty is inadmissible under Inter-American law.

'(I request) that you refrain from extraditing Mr. Wong Ho Wing until such time as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights reaches a decision on the petition made on his behalf,' the IACHR executive secretary wrote at that time.

But García, as confirmed by the recent letter to the Chinese ambassador, chose to continue the extradition process, which was only stopped when the Inter-American Court issued urgent measures on Wong's behalf.

© Inter Press Service (2010) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service