France, China to sign contested extradition treaty

19th March 2007, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 19, 2007 (AFP) - France and China are due Tuesday to sign a groundbreaking extradition treaty, despite concerns raised by the Asian giant's dismal record on prisoners' rights and widespread use of the death penalty.

PARIS, March 19, 2007 (AFP) - France and China are due Tuesday to sign a groundbreaking extradition treaty, despite concerns raised by the Asian giant's dismal record on prisoners' rights and widespread use of the death penalty.

France is set to become the second European country, after Spain in 2005, to reach a bilateral extradition deal with Beijing, which is also in talks with Portugal and Australia.

The treaty is to be signed in Paris by Dai Bingguo, China's first deputy foreign minister, and French Justice Minister Pascal Clement who finalised the negotiations during a trip to Beijing in January.

To come into force, it will need to be ratified by the French parliament, which will be re-elected in June following the April-May presidential election.

Rights groups have accused the government of President Jacques Chirac of taking a soft line on China's rights record, in the name of boosting business and strategic ties with the country -- which it has declared a priority.

Amnesty International France has urged Paris not to ratify the text because of "continuing reports of serious violations in China, including the use of the death penalty and abusive forms of arbitrary detention, torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatments."

The Paris-based League of Human Rights (LDH) and the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) have also issued a joint appeal to the French parliament to block the treaty's adoption.

"The commercial interests of France do not justify the slightest leniency towards China," the groups said in a joint statement, describing China's penal system as "notorious for being one of the worst in existence".

But the French justice ministry repeated Monday that the treaty would mark a "great step forwards" and would "create a legal framework where before there was none."

"China has agreed to lay down in black and white that there would be no extraditions in cases which could involve the death penalty, and for any offences based on politics or opinion."

The ministry argues that the number of extradition requests in both directions was likely to shoot up, "since China is opening up: there are the Beijing Olympics in 2008, the Shangahi Universal Exhibition in 2010."

Amnesty France has rejected the government's arguments, pointing to a lack of judicial independence in China, saying there is "no certainty that a Chinese citizen extradited one day with the clearest guarantees will not be sentenced to death at a later date on a different charge."

According to Amnesty, 68 types of offence are punishable by death in China. The exact number of executions in China is a state secret but Chinese academics have publicly estimated the state puts up to 10,000 people to death every year.

China's rights record caused waves in the French presidential campaign in January, after Segolene Royal, the Socialist frontrunner, was attacked for praising the speed of the Chinese justice system during a visit to the country.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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