Case 12.794 – Wong Ho Wing, Peru

The State of Peru argues before the Commission in the case of Wong Ho Wing v. Peru on March 26, 2012. Photo courtesy of Flickr.

Commissioners: José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez, Felipe González, Tracy Robinson, and Elizabeth Abi-Mershed (Deputy Executive Secretary)
Petitioners
: Wong Ho Wing
State
: State of Peru
Topic
: contentious case between Peru and Wong Ho Wing

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (Commission) conducted a hearing on March 26, 2012, detailing a new twist in the case of Wong Ho Wing v. Peru. This case was originally found admissible by the Commission on November 1, 2010 after hearing arguments the previous month, but the Commission has not yet issued a merits report.

On October 27, 2008, Wong Ho Wing was arrested in Peru after a warrant was issued by INTERPOL, charging him with crimes including smuggling and fraud. He was placed in temporary detention by the Peruvian authorities and has remained there for the last four years. The People’s Republic of China has requested Wong Ho Wing’s extradition. Peru has been hesitant, however, to comply with the extradition request because China continues to use the death penalty. Wong Ho Wing has brought multiple habeas corpus cases before courts in Peru, and the Constitutional Court ultimately granted him habeas corpus relief. Since the Constitutional Court’s decision, China has passed amendments stating that it will not impose the death penalty for crimes such as corruption and bribery. Peru is now requesting a complementary ruling by the Constitutional Court, reassessing Wong Ho Wing’s case in light of the new legal developments in China.

Wong Ho Wing argues that Peru has violated Articles 4 (right to life), 5 (right to humane treatment), 7 (right to personal liberty), 8 (right to a fair trial) and 25 (right to due process) of the American Convention on Human Rights. Wong Ho Wing has spent four years in detention without a trial and, according to his lawyer Luis Lamas Puccio, faces death if extradited to China. At the March 26 hearing before the Commission, Peru argued that protecting the life of Wong Ho Wing was the State’s primary concern, but that as a signatory of the UN Convention Against Corruption, it also had an obligation to prevent impunity for crimes such as corruption. Peru claimed that it was investigating the evidentiary value of the documents submitted by China and whether China would in fact apply the death penalty if Wong Ho Wing was extradited.

José de Jesús Orozco Henríquez asked both parties whether the awaited ruling by the Constitutional Court would be binding and if there would be a way for Wong Ho Wing to appeal a decision by the Constitutional Court. Felipe Gonzalez requested information on whether Wong Ho Wing thought the due process violations were sufficiently severe to warrant his release without trial and asked that the State provide him with the specific charges against Wong Ho Wing. Tracy Robinson wondered if China’s restriction of the death penalty was a direct result of Wong Ho Wing’s case. Finally, Deputy Executive Secretary, Elizabeth Abi-Mershed requested information regarding the penalties Wong Ho Wing would be subject to if extradited and whether the Constitutional Court was required to provide the complementary decision by a set deadline. The petitioner emphatically responded that the ruling by the Constitutional Court granting Wong Ho Wing habeas corpus was binding. Peru explained that if the Constitutional Court finds the extradition request valid, the Executive Branch can still refuse to extradite him.  However, if the Constitutional Court does not find the extradition request binding, the Executive Branch cannot go against that ruling and extradite Wong Ho Wing. Peru stressed the principle of complementarity, stating that the international human rights system is complementary and only rules on cases when domestic remedies have been exhausted.

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