Are refugees victims of malicious prosecution?

Post Date: Nov 22nd, 2013 | Categories: Advocacy | COMMENT

Malicious prosecution denotes the wrongful initiation of criminal proceedings to intentionally and maliciously pursue a suspect without probable cause or sufficient evidence. Law enforcement officers (police, Customs or Immigration) might charge arrested persons with offenses on the basis of circumstantial evidence, i.e., without reliable witnesses, DNA proof or hard evidence. Victims of such prosecution can file compensation claims against the government. Consider these cases:

– Four Bangladeshi refugees searched for cheap rooms in a slum where shacks were being erected. The police pounce and arrest them. They were charged with breach of conditions of stay (working) for being at that location. They plead not guilty and were sentenced to 22 months imprisonment. After 10 months the High Court releases them on lack of evidence.

– Two Pakistani refugees were arrested and charged with robbery after being identified by a Chinese victim in an ID parade (don’t minorities look the same to a non-trained eye?). They pleaded not guilty, refused bail and held 9 months on remand. The victim failed to recognize them at trial. Two other suspects were convicted for the offense. They were released.

– An Indian refugee, with a complicated immigration record, was held at Castle Peak Bay Immigration Centre (CIC) despite having torture and CIDTP claims. He was harassed and attempts were made to remove him. He made it clear that he would rather spend his life in CIC than return to face danger. He was released after one year and two weeks of detention.

– Two Indonesian refugees borrowed money from a friend at her place of employment. Immigration pounces and they were arrested for working. They pleaded not guilty. They were held over a month in prison. They were threatened and promised a 2-month sentence if they pleaded guilty. Under duress they agree and were shocked to receive 15-months instead.

These cases have a few elements in common. The defendants are undesirable South Asians torture claimants. Irrespective of the merits of their case, they were profiled as suspect who fit a certain description: brown skinned, poorly educated, little understanding of English, unassertive and generally subdued in character, easily intimidated by authorities and persuaded under duress, unknown to NGOs and human rights lawyers, unaware of their rights and of little interest to duty lawyers.

Law enforcement might be motivated by performance targets: arrests per month, successful prosecution, guilty pleas and increased crime statistics for torture claimants. Under pressure it is understandable that arrested persons collapse. Another refugee pleaded guilty after a month-long trial and turned down the judge’s suggestions he think about it for two weeks. He had broken down and simply couldn’t take it anymore. He would rather go to jail than be harassed daily in court.

Vision First is extremely concerned about the racial profiling of South Asian refugees, their arrest and prosecution without adequate legal assistance. It is evident from numerous cases brought to our attention that prosecution standards must be raised. Refugees should not be manipulated into crime statistics to prove they are criminally minded and merely motivated by a desire to abuse the system.

We are filing compensation claims for the above cases and welcome inquiries from victims of malicious prosecution and unlawful detention who require legal assistance to seek justice and redress.

Hong Kong citizens believe in justice and expect law enforcement to meet high standards of fairness.

Should refugees be removed as a *sacrifice* to protect Hong Kong’s wealth?