Party Central Political-Legal Committee weighs in on wrongful convictions

by China Law Translate | 2013/08/12 3:50 PM

Secretary Meng Jianzhu (孟建柱) Central Political-Legal Commission

Original title:中央政法委出台意见要求 严格遵守法律程序制度坚守防止

Legal Daily Online, August 11, Beijing , reporter Jiang Hao--- The Party Central Political-legal Committee recently put out a guiding opinion on the effective prevention of unjust, false and wrongly decided cases, focusing on the prominent problems in in law enforcement and the judiciary, and, on the basis of the relevant current laws and regulations, raised clear requirements regarding the principle of not punishing in cases-in-doubt, the principle of evidence-based judgments, strict evidentiary standards, ensuring the right of defense attorneys to present a defense and other serious trial issues. Clear requirements for judges, prosecutors and police bearing ultimate responsibility for the quality of case handling were also put forward.

The opinion stressed that after suspects are sent to llock-up for detention, interrogation should be conducted in the lock-up's interrogation room and a simultaneous audio or video recording should be made of the entire process. When investigative organs transfer the case, they should transfer all evidence showing the suspect or defendant is guilty or not-guilty, and whether the offense was serious or minor. If evidence that should be excluded is discovered during the investigation, the review for indictment or at trial, it should be excluded in accordance with law and must not be the basis for a request for arrest, the approval or decision to arrest, the transfer for review for prosecution, the issuance of a prosecution decision or a judgment.

The opinion requires adherence to the principle of evidence-based judgments; evidence that has not gone through presentation in court, identification, debated and other courtroom investigation procedures to verify its veracity, must not be the base of a verdict. The principal of not punishing in cases-in-doubt should be adhered to in cases where the evidence is insufficient to reach a verdict, and the law should be followed to announce that the defendant is not-guilty; a judgment that 'leaves room for error' should not be handed down. In cases where evidence for conviction is credible and sufficient, but evidence impacitng sentencing is still in question, it shall be handled in a way beneficial to the defendant at sentencing. A judgment or decision contrary to legal provisions cannot be issued because pressures such as tumultuous public opinion, the parties and their families petitioning, or the time limit in which the case should be broken.

The opinion emphasized the effective protection of defense attorney's rights such as to meet clients, read case files, investigate and gather evidence, ask questions in court and debate evidence. As to explanations or defense opinions and evidentiary materials provided by the defendant and his defender, the people's courts should seriously review them and explain the reason for accepting them or not in the judgment documents. Prisons or other agencies enforcing criminal penalties must not withhold appeals, accusations or reporting materials put forth by a convict, but should promptly transfer or submit them to the relevant organ for handling, the relevant organ should earnestly review and promptly handle them, and also promptly notify the prison or other enforcement organ of the outcome.

The opinion requires the establishment of a complete and uniform system of responsibility for case-handling regarding the rights and responsibilities of trial panels, individual judges hearing cases, procurators and people's police. Judges, procurators and police, have the lifetime responsibility for case quality within the scope of their professional duties. Clarify standards for unjust, false and wrongly decided cases and procedures and susbtance for initiating corrections; establish complete mechanisms for pursuing responsibiliyt in unjust, false and wrongfully decided cases. Sternly investigate conduct such as the use of torture to extract confessions, use of violence to collect evidence or the concealment or falsification of evidence, in accordance with law. 14. Establish and complete performance review systems for case handling that are scientific, reasonable, and conform to judicial discipline, they cannot solely pursue indexes such as the case-breaking, arrest, indictment or conviction rates.

It is our understanding that to ensure that this opinion is fully and faithfully implemented, the central political-legal commission has recently convened a meeting to allocate specialized research, requiring that political-legal units come together to launch the Party's massline education and practice activities and a new round of judicial reform; completing and perfecting relevant systems and mechanisms, strengthening supervision and review, strict accountability, ensuring that the opinion is implemented in every aspect of the judiciary, in every effort, so as to earn the public's trust through the effective prevention of unjust, false and wrongfully decided cases, and continuously elevate public confidence in the judiciary and law enforcement.

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