The core role of the Central Authority
Maintaining New Zealand values within an international context
2.3A key part of the Central Authority’s role will be to ensure that any action taken under either Bill will accord with New Zealand’s values within the wider context of our international obligations. Both the extradition and mutual assistance processes require an assessment of whether the request is in the correct form, but also of whether it is appropriate to engage the New Zealand criminal legal system. Both Bills require an assessment of whether particular grounds exist on which requests either must, or may, be refused.
2.4The Central Authority’s role in maintaining New Zealand’s values will be particularly significant under our Extradition Bill, as currently no person or body is responsible for conducting extraditions. As we also explain in Chapter 3, at the moment non-Commonwealth countries that do not have a treaty with New Zealand need the permission of the Minister of Justice to commence extradition proceedings. Under our recommendations, the Central Authority will assume this role for all countries whether or not they have a treaty relationship with us.
2.5Although traditionally consenting to the commencement of the extradition process has been seen as a diplomatic or ministerial function, placing the responsibility with an independent Central Authority is more in line with the rule of law values that underpin our recommendations. However, it is important that in replacing the Minister with the Central Authority the ability remains for New Zealand to refuse to commence extradition proceedings that are not in the interests of justice.
2.6The question will not be, we emphasise, one of whether a particular legal or criminal-justice system is similar enough to New Zealand’s own to entertain an extradition request from that country. Rather, the Central Authority will look at the individual request to determine whether there is a reasonable prospect of extradition. This will require a preliminary assessment of whether one of the humanitarian protections we have included in the Bill would be likely to prevent extradition, including recognition of fundamental fair trial rights and protection against discrimination.