News / Asia

China Top Court Rules Out Forced Confessions

FILE - A paramilitary policeman stands guard at the entrance of China's Supreme Court in Beijing.
FILE - A paramilitary policeman stands guard at the entrance of China's Supreme Court in Beijing.
VOA News
China's top court has ruled out forced confessions and vowed to reduce miscarriage of justice, in a move that highlights increasing policy emphasis on legal reform.
 
The directive, issued by China's Supreme People's Court on Thursday, is intended to strengthen the rule of law in a system that many analysts agree still lacks basic elements of judicial independence. 
 
The court says that all levels of the judiciary are required to perform their duties strictly according to the law, base their judgments on facts, and protect human rights. It lists 27 provisions, including the protection of defendants' right of attorney, the need for trials to be open and based on legally obtained evidence, and the elimination of confessions obtained through torture.
 
Encouraging sign

Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch says the ruling is an encouraging sign that the government is responding to pressure from society demanding better rights protection during criminal trials. 
 
“It gives a foothold to lawyers and legal reformers in China, it helps them put pressure on the police, on the courts, on the judicial system whenever they don't act accordingly,” he says.   
 
In recent years, China has introduced procedural mechanisms to guarantee defendants fair trials, including an amendment last year requiring police to allow lawyers to meet with their client within 48 hours after a request is filed.  Thursday's court ruling is a step in that same direction - analysts say - in a system plagued by endemic problems of obtaining confessions through torture, wrongful convictions and persecution of lawyers.
 
Police remain powerful
 
But rights advocates say that despite court reforms, the powerful police in China still make the justice system unfair.  In a recent case, a Chinese official under investigation for corruption was tortured to death and drowned in a bathtub as police investigators were trying to break him into confession.
 
Bequelin of Human Rights Watch says that given that courts in China are often subservient to police departments, there are limits to what the courts - such as with Thursday's provisions - can achieve.  “It is all well for the courts to say 'oh, we are going to make sure we reduce wrongful convictions and torture,' but the fact is they have very little leverage to do that because it is basically the police that are driving the criminal system in China,” he says. 
 
Call for review of past cases
 
Li Zhuang, a criminal lawyer based in Beijing, says that to prove they are serious in implementing the documents, courts should start reviewing past cases where lawyers have presented proof of coerced testimony.  
 
Li Zhuang was one of the lawyers targeted in a campaign against mafia in Chongqing, then the stronghold of now ousted politician Bo Xilai.  Li was charged with perjury after attempting to defend a local entrepreneur whose confession had been obtained through torture.
 
Li confessed wrongdoing and was sentenced to 18 months in jail.  “Contesting evidence has been provided that sufficiently overthrows that judgment, but it has been more than two years and there has been no review,” Li says. “We have to wait and see whether these provisions will be implemented on the ground. That is the next step.”  Li says there is little incentive for court officials to review cases because in many instances they have based career promotions on wrongful convictions.
 
In Chongqing, some of the city's wealthiest entrepreneurs were put to jail based on confessions obtained through illegal means, and their assets were seized by the city government.  “Many assets seized during the campaign have been spent," Li says. They used them to plant trees and organize red songs revivals. How can you give back money that has already been spent?”
 
Evolution of judicial reforms
 
The Supreme Court's ruling comes days after China wrapped up an important party meeting and announced key reforms in a number of fields, including its legal system.  After much public pressure, party leaders pledged to scrap the system of re-education through labor - a notorious practice of administrative detention that gives the police rights to bypass courts and detain suspects without trial for up to three years.
 
Such amendments have been welcomed by legal scholars and professionals in China, but some believe that individual measures will be meaningless if they do not ensure independence of the legal system - which in China is still to a great extent under the yoke of the party and the public security apparatus.

You May Like

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid