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英最高法院院長韋彥德:倘有違良知 將辭終審庭(附全文紀錄)


英國最高法院院長韋彥德。國會直播截圖

英國最高法院院長韋彥德(Lord Robert Reed)在英國國會聽證會視像會議上表示,定期與英國外相及司法大臣檢討1997年起委派英國法官到香港終審法院擔任海外非常任法官的安排,並預期短期內有下一次會議。韋彥德無透露會否有決定,但確認會基於香港近日狀況考慮立場,強調如有任何破壞司法獨立、法庭違反法治的舉動,「如香港情況到了一個地步是我們基於良知不能再做下去」,自己便不會擔任終審庭法官,或提名其他英國法官來港擔任終審庭非常任法官。

韋彥德席間向國會議員表明:「您可以放心,我不會容許最高法院的名聲置於險境。」(You can be assured that I won’t allow the Supreme Court’s reputation to be put at risk.)

英國最高法院副院長賀知義(Lord Patrick Hodge)也直指,在困境中協助港人和本港法院,與保護英國法院名聲與地位之間存在衝突(conflict),但無進一步透露意向,只說完全同意韋彥德所講。賀知義在去年12月獲立法會通過非常任法官任命。

 另一名非常任法官、英國前最高法院法官岑耀信(Lord Jonathan Sumption)則在英國《泰晤士報》撰文,指英國對香港留下最重要不是民主,而是法律體系,「法官的職能不應該參與政治杯葛。更好履行公義的方式,是透過參與香港法院的工作。」

值得留意的是,特首林鄭月娥3月初根據首席法官張舉能建議,延長三名非常任法官任期三年至2024年2月底。他們分別是英國最高法院前院長廖柏嘉,另一名最高法院前法官華學佳勳,及澳洲高等法院前首席大法官紀立信。

韋彥德昨日(17日)在英國上議院憲制事務委員會上,提及英國委派法官到港的安排。他表示,自己在去年7月起,一直密切監察香港的情況,並與外相及司法大臣保持密切聯繫,定期檢視1997委派法官來港的安排。

被問及會否考慮香港不斷變化的局勢,韋彥德說「當然(certainly)」,並強調如果司法獨立破壞、法庭行為可能違反法治,或香港的局勢變化到出於良心不能繼續下去,就不再留任。

不過他也提及,香港大律師公會及律師會都支持外籍法官繼續參與其中,形容甚至民主派召集人都支持。

「我覺得,我們對香港人有責任。」韋彥德如是說。「所以這是十分小心處理問題,考慮情況到了一個程度不能繼續做下去。這是一個相當嚴重一步。我們在香港地位十分崇高,亦令我們有其他地方沒有的影響力。」

韋彥德去年7月時提及要視乎法官職能會否違反法治,被問到「指的是《基本法》,還是國安法呢?」韋彥德說法治概念較此說法抽象得多,強調法律是確保可接觸到及可預測,也可能有法例是「本身都不尊重法治」。

國安法去年生效後,韋彥德7月中曾發表聲明,表示會持續與英國政府討論,「到底最高法院法官能否繼續在香港擔任法官,將視乎他們的工作能否維持司法獨立及法治。」

英國外相藍韜文在10月質詢時,首次透露會諮詢最高法院院長處理的正確方式,但強調如果司法自主受威脅,英國法官不會給出虛有其表的正當性。外界所知英國政府最近期說法,英國司法部官員Alex Chalk在2月初一條書面回覆國會質詢中提及,英國一直支持香港司法獨立,「我們認為亦希望這安排可以繼續」,由於法院司法獨立,要由最高法院自行決定。

英國最高法院副院長賀知義

英國最高法院院長韋彥德國會質詢全文:

Lord Wallace: We’re all aware of the recent development in Hong Kong. Last July, Lord Reed you said- I quote, whether judges of the Supreme Court can continue to serve in Hong Kong, will depend whether such service is compatible with judicial independence, and the rule of law. In light of recent reform to national security and electoral law in Hong Kong, do you consider you will continue your service as judges on the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal compatible with judicial independence and the rule of law? And if I could ask you, help me- when we talk about rule of law, which law, is it the Basic Law of Hong Kong, or is it law emanating from National Security Law, which is recently promulgated?

Lord Reed, president of Supreme Court: Well, in relation to the latter question, I think the rule of law concept is more abstract that that. You can have laws…the idea is that you live in a system where the law governs are accessible, predicable laws that governs your activity. And you can have a law which does not itself respect the rule of law.

The position at the moment is that there’re really two aspects to the operation of the agreement entered into as part of the handover, under which Supreme Court judges sit on the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong.

It’s a matter to the UK’s foreign policy, and it’s also a matter to the Supreme Court obviously, that judges are sitting there.

I’ve been monitoring development in Hong Kong closely, since the National Security Law was passed into June last year.

I’ve also been in close contact with the Foreign Secretary and Lord Chancellor for some time. Together with them, I regularly review the operation of the 1997 agreement in light of the developments that are taking place.

I’m expecting our next meeting to be held shortly.

You can be assured that I won’t allow the Supreme Court’s reputation to be put at risk. I don’t really want to add very much to that.

Lord Fox: I think the answer’s been given and I don’t want to press Lord Reed further than that. He said he’s considering it. Clearly the situation is potentially quite volatile in Hong Kong, and may I take it from your answer, Lord Reed, on circumstances where you might have to reconsider your position.

Lord Reed: Certainly, certainly. If there’s any undermining of the independence of the Hong Kong judiciary, or if it’s expected to act contrary to rule of law, or it’s simply the situation in Hong Kong became one where we could no longer in good conscience serve there, then I will no longer be prepared to serve, or nominate other judges of the court to serve there.

Lord Howell: On the withdrawal of our judges from the Hong Kong Judiciary would be….could it be something had leverage there? Because it won’t be quite a smart blow to the attempt by Beijing and the Chinese to say that they are on the side of the embracing law and order, upholding world peace and so so on and so forth. That will be a very death-knell move for China in fact, whatever they may say, are damaging. I just wonder given the existence of that leverage, there was some way of establishing, or getting going some dialogue with political authorities, and judicial authorities in Beijing, to establish what they really have in mind, and do they realise the damage to their world reputation, if the Supreme Court withdraws all together? Has any dialogue been suggested? =

Lord Reed: Well, these are considerations really for the foreign secretary, that dimension of the problem. Certainly, as you can imagine, he has sources and means of discussion with the Beijing authorities, which I’m not involved in at all.

My focus has really be on the role of the judges have in supporting independent judiciary in Hong Kong, and upholding the rule of law there.

You’ll know, I expect that the lawyers in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Bar Association, the Hong Kong Law Society, support our continued involvement there, so on the whole, do the pro-democracy spokesmen.

I feel we have a responsibility to the people of Hong Kong, who I must say have shown me nothing but kindness, when I’ve been there.

So it’s a matter required great care, deciding if the situation has reached a point which continued service is no longer possible. It’s a very serious step to take. Our role there is prestigious within Hong Kong itself. And it gives us considerable influence in some ways, in Hong Kong, which may not otherwise have.

I suppose that’s the point you’re making. But the diplomatic implications of that is really for the Foreign Secretary, not for me.

Lord Hodge, deputy president, UKSC: Could I just say that I wholly agree with what Lord Reed just said.

As a recent appointee to that court, there is this conflict between our duty to do what we can for the people of Hong Kong in very difficult circumstances, and to assist the independence judiciary of Hong Kong, who lived in day in day out in these difficult circumstances on the one hand.

On the other hand, to protect the reputation and the standing of our court here, in the UK.

非常任法官岑耀信撰文︰參與港法院更履行公義

另一名非常任法官、英國前最高法院法官岑耀信(Lord Jonathan Sumption)在英國《泰晤士報》撰文,反擊英國政界要求海外法官辭去終審庭席位。岑耀信指,這些訴求問題是並無區分民主和法治,「香港從來無民主,但依然有法治」,「要求英國法官辭任與司法獨立及法治毫無關係,實際上要英國法官集體杯葛,只是向中國政府施壓,改變對(香港民主)的立場。」

「法官的職能不應該參與政治杯葛。更好履行公義的方式,是透過參與香港法院的工作。」他說。「作為香港法官,我要服務香港的人。我必須以他們的利益為先,而不是英國政客的意願。我會繼續留任香港法庭。」

他回顧港英殖民期間,英國從來無把握機會給香港民主,即使立法會改革,約三分之二的議席仍不時直選產生,港督從來都有話事權。當時的法庭獨立運作,但套用的法律並非民主體制產生,岑耀信說,當時無人質疑不符合法治或質疑英國法官參與。

岑耀信續說,英國對香港留下最重要不是民主,而是法律體系,形容香港的常任法官完全忠於司法獨立及法治。

他說:「歷任的首席法官都透過公開聲明表明(對司法獨立及法治)立場。這些聲明不是口講,他們代表最資深、勇敢及獨立思考的法官的承諾。他們的專業生涯就是傳承香港與其他普通法區域共享的傳統。他們應獲支持,而不是被他們海外同事遺棄。」

岑耀信又說,中國及香港政府目前「並無做過任何事」干擾司法獨立,雖然同時考慮法律內容,但他形容香港有排都未至於(nowhere near)英國法官完全不想套用當地法律的狀態。他指出,國安法分裂香港輿論,但當中包括人權保障,包括新聞自由及示威自由,並聲稱挑選法官方式並無爭議。

他表示,保障這些條款得以尊重的最佳辦法是獨立的法庭, 「英國至少可以做的就是防止破壞它」(The least that Britain can do now is to avoid undermining it.)。




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