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何熙怡不續任終院法官 稱本港仍司法獨立 「商業案仍有法治」


眾新聞確認,終審法院非常任法官、英國最高法院前院長何熙怡(Lady Brenda Hale)在一個英國網上論壇表示,非常任法官任期7月底任滿後無意續任,形容「主要因為不能預期自己會想登上一架往香港的班機」,但強調決定與香港在地情況無關,相信其他海外法官繼續小心監察香港情況,港人與香港法院也希望他們繼續緊守崗位。

何熙怡又說,香港司法機構仍然獨立,至少在商業法律方面仍然按法治運作運作。至於國安法影響,她承認「浮現各種疑問」,但認為國安法運作未有結論。她又不點名說「即使(法律)實際內容不盡如人意,仍可有法治。」

司法機構證實,何熙怡任期至7月29日屆滿後將不會續任,並重申非常任普通法地區法官有助香港與其他普通法司法管轄區保持聯繫,對香港貢獻良多,亦多次獲得肯定。律政司則重申,司法獨立受《基本法》85條保障,而法官審理涉及國安法的案件時依然按司法誓言及《基本法》下的憲制責任,獨立無私地履行司法職務,不受任何干涉。 

英國最高法院回覆查詢時則重申,院長韋彥德仍正監察香港局勢發展,並與英國外相及司法大臣正一同檢討派遣英國法官到香港的協議。

何熙怡

作為以處理平權案件見稱法官,何熙怡是本港終審法院首兩位女性法官,但由於疫情關係,在2018年至今仍未來港參與審理案件。她原先去年2月安排來港,本來計劃參與社民連梁國雄挑戰懲教署剪頭髮規定一案。

何熙怡在英國時間周四一個論壇上,被問及會否繼續擔任香港終審法院非常任法官及對香港局勢看法。根據眾新聞獲得的謄本節錄,她首先確認「我在香港終審法院任期到7月底屆滿,而我不希望被再度委任」。她解釋,決定主要是因為不預期自己想飛往香港,但強調自己並非評論香港情況,而香港局勢也有其他非常任法官小心監察。

「他們全部都繼續(監察)——只是目前而言少了一人,因為香港人及香港法院希望他們可以繼續工作。」何熙怡如是說。

何熙怡續說,新的國安法引起問題主要影響示威及公民自由等,但不太影響商業活動。她形容,「儘管有時實際內容並不盡如人意,仍然可以有法治」,並說英國歷史一段長時間也有同樣情況。

她承認,沒有基本法人權保障令損害遵守法治,「但目前而言,香港有獨立的司法機構,它根據法治原則運作,至少是在商業法律而言。」

「對新的國安法下如何運作,仍然未有定論。各種疑問也懸而未決。」

英國最高法院院長韋彥德今年3月時曾經表示,如果香港情況到了良知驅使不能繼續的話,就會辭去香港終審法院的法官,但其後無進一步決定。

何熙怡發言紀錄
Rough transcript of Lady Hale in response to question about whether to continue to serve in Hong Kong and situation here

“Number one, my term of office on the Court of Final Appeal in Hong Kong comes to an end at the end of July, and I don't wish to be reappointed. And that is principally I cannot foresee a time when I would actually want to get on a plane to go to Hong Kong. And it's not a comment on what's going on there because the other non-permanent judges are keeping a careful eye on how things are, but they are all, with one exception, for the time being, carrying on because the Hong Kong people and the Hong Kong judiciary want them to carry on.

And that is because the economy of Hong Kong is closely correlated with the fact that there is a functioning justice system which adheres to the rule of law, and has independent judges. But this is of course important for commercial life to function properly.

The problem that has arisen in Hong Kong is because of the new national security law, which doesn't impinge on commercial life very much at all. It's all about protests and civil liberties and the like.

You can have the rule of law even though sometimes the substantive content is not what you would want it to be. That's been true in this country for quite a lot of its history. So there is no necessary correlation unless you add to your description of the rule of law, one of the things that was in Lord Bingham's characteristics, which was the protection of fundamental human rights. If you don't have the protection of fundamental human rights well then maybe your adherence to the rule of law is diminished.

But at the moment Hong Kong has an independent judiciary, it IS functioning in accordance with the rule of law, at least as far as commercial law is concerned. The jury is out, on how they will be able to operate the new national security law. There are all sorts of question marks up in the air.”




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