Sunday, 8 April 2007

China call for cautious death penalty - again

China's four major criminal justice agencies have called for more careful handling of death penalty cases, saying police must obey laws that protect suspects and judges should consider evidence more carefully.

The Supreme People's Court, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Justice and the country's top prosecutor, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, issued a joint statement on 11 March defining the obligations of law enforcement officials and advocating a reduction in death sentences.

"Our country still cannot abolish the death penalty but should gradually reduce its application," the statement said, according to the Associated Press (AP).

"But where there is a possibility someone should not be executed, then without exception the person should not be killed."

China's official newsagency Xinhua said the statement emphasised the Supreme People's Court now has the authority to give final approval in capital cases.

"It also asked law enforcement officials to strictly obey laws in identifying facts, collecting evidence, dealing with procedures and adopting punishments," Xinhua said.

The statment said police were banned from using torture to extract confessions and from illegally collecting evidence.

Xinhua said judges should "pay more attention to the validity of evidence in handling death penalty cases".

The AP report said officials had an obligation to "ensure crime suspects and defendants can fully exercise their rights to defense and other procedural rights".

First executions approved
Xinhua reported on 19 March that the SPC had approved at least four death sentences since it resumed hearing final appeals from 1 January.

An SPC judge said review panels had confirmed the original death sentences in four cases, but he would not say how many cases had been reviewed in total.

According to the Xinhua report, convicted criminals cannot now be executed without the approval of the supreme court.

"If the supreme court approves the death penalty, they will be executed within seven days of local courts receiving the notice of the supreme court," it said.

"During the review process, the supreme court has also found cases lacking evidence, and returned them to lower courts for further inquiries, said the judge.

'Sending back'
In late February, the Supreme People's Court (SPC) issued a regulation clarifying that it would order provincial courts to retry suspects if it found errors in judgements.

A Xinhua report, published on the SPC-sponsored Chinacourt website, said the regulation would see the court sending back capital cases for retrial rather than changing the sentences.

"The new regulation will guarantee that death sentences are handed out with caution by ordering retrials, which will also improve the efficiency of SPC death penalty reviews," an SPC spokesman said.

Xinhua said the SPC would only change death sentences in cases where individuals faced multiple death sentences, or multiple criminals faced death penalties.

The regulation would reportedly take effect on 28 February.

Related stories:
China: Judges try to limit death penalty -- 14 November, 2006
China reforms good, but not enough -- 8 November, 2006
China: Supreme Court review from January -- 1 November, 2006
China to video death penalty appeals -- 28 May 2006
China to retain death penalty, with reforms -- 13 March 2006

No comments: