New guideline to safeguard judicial independence

Updated: 2013-08-14 06:09


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BEIJING - China's first guideline to prevent unjust or wrongful judgments will better safeguard judicial independence, build credibility for the judicial system and help to improve public trust.

The guideline, issued by the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee on Tuesday, said law enforcement personnel will have to bear life-long responsibility for their roles in wrongful judgments.

To prevent the extortion of confessions via torture, the guideline reiterates the Criminal Procedural Law, saying all interrogations should be conducted in detention houses and recorded using audio or video equipment.

The guideline will safeguard the independence of the judicial system by minimizing human interference in decision-making for law-enforcement personnel, who sometimes have to compromise the law when facing pressure from their superiors.

The guideline also advocates the principle of "innocent until proven guilty," as well as calls for changes to the current judicial appraisal system, which evaluates the performance of law enforcement personnel based on the number of criminal cases that have been solved and the number of suspects who have been detained or prosecuted.

This system has acted as a strong incentive for law enforcement authorities to use improper means to inflate their arrest and conviction numbers, according to Zhao Bingzhi, dean of the College for Criminal Law Science at Beijing Normal University.

Experts believe the guideline is a response to public calls for greater judicial fairness following the emergence of several wrongful judgments.

In one case, two men in east China's Zhejiang Province were acquitted of rape in March after a retrial found insufficient evidence to support their previous convictions.

Zhang Hui and his uncle Zhang Gaoping were sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve and 15 years in prison, respectively, for allegedly raping a 17-year-old girl.

The introduction of the guideline is a testament to authorities' willingness to address public concerns and uphold justice. However, the guideline must be properly implemented in order to reduce wrongful judgments and boost public trust in the judicial system.