Proper procedure for justice
Updated: 2013-11-22 07:20
The document on the mechanism against wrong verdicts that the Supreme People's Court released on Thursday is a timely response to the call to accelerate the building of an efficient and authoritative judicial system.
The call, made at the Third Plenum of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China that concluded last week, says that such a system should make sure that justice and fairness prevail in every case.
The document issued by the Supreme People's Court requires that confessions obtained through duress, by denying suspects food or sleep, or placing them under extreme conditions of cold or heat, should never be used to incriminate the accused. And a confession alone cannot support a guilty judgment. The document also says that the death penalty can never be imposed without sufficient and solid evidence.
The top court has reiterated time and again the prohibition on the use of torture to extract confessions from suspects. Yet, there have still been cases in which innocent people were charged and imprisoned, and even given death penalty on the basis of a forced confession.
The new specification that a confession alone can never be enough to secure a conviction will make it useless for interrogators to extract confessions through torture. This stipulation, in other words, compels the police to collect sufficient evidence to secure a conviction.
The document also says that evidence collected at the scene of a crime, such as fingerprints, blood stains, hair, and so on, cannot be used against the accused unless they are properly tested and found to be those of the suspect. It also stipulates that the rights of the defense to question, argue and appeal in court must be protected. An explanation should be given in the hearing or verdict about why the arguments and evidence submitted by the defense have been accepted or refused.
All these are meant to make sure that judicial justice and fairness can be realized through due procedure. The emphasis that the document has placed on the principle of assumption of innocence and procedural justice points to the right direction of judicial reform.
Nevertheless, this is just the beginning. The judicial reform will proceed to establish a sound mechanism for independent juridical and prosecution authority, which the CPC decisions describe as the goal of this reform.
(China Daily 11/22/2013 page8)