UK-based activists are seeking to fund a private prosecution against British expatriate police officers over allegations of torture during the recent pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Hong Kong Watch activist Luke de Pulford and pro-democracy activist Nathan Law previously launched an investigation into British senior police officers in the Hong Kong force. Specialist private prosecution firm Edmonds Marshall McMahon is advising them on the legal case, though the group said the officers involved would not be named at this stage.
They are now proceeding to call for witness testimonies concerning physical, psychological and sexual abuse allegedly suffered by activists in police custody. They will also consider the CITIC Tower incident last June 12, where police fired tear gas without prior notice to disperse an assembly near the legislature, causing crowds to rush inside a building.
City-wide demonstrations erupted last June over a now-axed extradition bill. As the unrest grew, the police handling of the protests was criticised by Amnesty International as being disproportionate.
The UK group said police violence reached grotesque proportions and that officers enjoyed impunity. Yet the senior officers who are British nationals remained liable for offences – including torture – in the UK, which claims universal jurisdiction for such offences.
The press statement said that a private prosecution “of senior British officers in the jurisdiction of England and Wales under universal jurisdiction provisions” was one of the few remaining options for justice: “At virtually every major protest, officers have beaten defenceless activists and bystanders and deploy disproportionate force with impunity – including stamping on the heads of protestors already in custody, as well as using the technique of kneeling on the necks of detainees and employing methods which contravene international policing norms and violate human rights law. Heinous accounts of sexual assault and rape in police custody have added to overwhelming evidence of widespread cruel and inhuman treatment,” the statement said.
The Independent Police Complaints Council cleared the force of their misconduct in a report released in May. However, the body has been criticised as lacking independence, as it cannot launch its own investigations or call witnesses.
‘Brutalising and oppression’
Luke de Pulford said that one of the worst aspects of Hong Kong situation was that none of the perpetrators had been held accountable: “Having reviewed hundreds of hours of video and written evidence, there is no doubt in my mind that British police officers have played an indispensable role in the brutalising and oppression of the people of Hong Kong,” he said in a press statement.
“If the U.K’s moral and legal commitment to upholding the rights of Hong Kong people cannot extend to making its own citizens answer for their crimes, it is no commitment at all,” he added.
Nathan Law – who fled Hong Kong for London ahead of the implementation of the national security law – urged the public to submit evidence in connection to accusations of police brutality: “In Hong Kong’s system, there are no mechanisms to hold the police officers who have abused the rights of the people accountable. Therefore, it’s important that we have actions in the UK and impose a deterrent effect on the human rights violators.”