Discrimination cases need own tribunal: EOC

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 April, 2009, 12:00am

Hong Kong should establish an equal opportunities tribunal to provide people filing discrimination cases better access to the judicial process, the Equal Opportunities Commission recommended yesterday.

The commission, which has completed a five-year review of how discrimination cases are handled in court, said the tribunal should have its own statutory framework with District Court judges acting as ex-officio presiding officers. The rules of conduct should also be less formal and technical, it said.

A Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau spokesman said the government would study the proposal to determine the way forward.

In Hong Kong, legal proceedings in discrimination cases are dealt with in the District Court under the same litigation rules as for other civil cases.

The commission said it expected the tribunal would deal exclusively with discrimination cases brought under the relevant legislation.

'The purpose of establishing an equal opportunities tribunal is to enhance access to the adjudication system in discrimination cases and to make it more user-friendly and less formal,' commission chairman Raymond Tang Yee-bong said.

The review of procedures and mechanisms for deciding claims under anti-discrimination legislation began in 2004.

The commission said that discrimination cases were separated from other civil litigation in overseas jurisdictions that had similar anti-bias legislation.

A long-term advocate for equal opportunities welcomed the commission's recommendation.

Roddy Shaw Kwok-wah, chairman of Civil Rights for Sexual Diversities, said: 'Many complaints are not settled through mediation by the commission because respondents do not co-operate. Some complaints do not go to court because the threshold to bring a case is too high.'

He said the tribunal could help solve such problems.

In specialist tribunals, such as the Lands Tribunal and Labour Tribunal, claimants do not need to follow technical rules on pleadings and other formalities that exist in the ordinary civil litigation system.

The commission gave legal assistance to 190 out of 451 applicants who wanted to take their case to court between September 1996 and February this year. While most cases were settled before or during legal proceedings, only 15 discrimination cases went to trial during all these years.

Helping hand

Out of 451 applications for legal assistance between September 1996 and February 2009, the Equal Opportunities Commission helped: 190




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