New Regulation Bans Torture Confessions

New rules from China’s Supreme People’s Court prohibit confessions obtained through torture. From Xinhua:

China’s highest court has published details of a regulation banning the admission of confessions obtained through torture in criminal trials.

The rule comes after a man who was wrongly jailed for murder was released last month when the victim turned up alive and well 10 years later.

It is one of the two regulations issued by the Supreme People’s Court Thursday to prevent further miscarriages of justice and tighten the conviction criteria in capital cases.

The regulations focus on corroboration of physical evidence and human testimony in death penalty cases.

The regulation on principles and detailed rules for scrutinizing evidence in death penalty cases states that all physical evidence for the prosecution and defense should be revealed, identified and open to question in court.

Every item of evidence should be verified through legal procedures.

The other regulation sets out detailed procedures for examining evidence and stipulates that confessions obtained through torture and other violent measures from a defendant are inadmissible.

The human rights organization Dui Hua is posting English translations of the regulations on its blog.

Some “highlights” and explanations of the rules, from Beijing News. Excerpted and translated by CDT:

  • Obtaining confessions through torture for testimony is prohibited

    Explanation He Bing (law professor at China University of Political Science and Law): In fact, as far as the law goes, using illegal means to collect evidence has always been prohibited. This includes extorting confessions through torture or violent threats to obtain testimony from a witness.

    However, in the process of handling a case, the prosecution and the judge may relax these demands out of a desire to solve the case, or for some other reason. This can create unjust, fake, and false charges. In regards to using illegal methods to obtain evidence, the new regulation is expressed more concretely — particularly in regards to related evidence, like material evidence, written evidence, or a written description.

  • Should a statement be dubious, the interrogator may be called into court

    Explanation He Bing (law professor at China University of Political Science and Law): … The new regulation stipulates that if it is not possible to eliminate doubt of a confession obtained through torture, the interrogator should testify in court. This is a great help to investigating the veracity and legality of testimonies.

  • Circumstantial evidence must be used with special caution in death penalty cases

    Explanation He Bing (law professor at China University of Political Science and Law): Generally speaking, for criminal cases, the investigating department has a difficult time collecting direct evidence. This time, courts may use circumstantial evidence, through a strict process leading up to the sentence. The primary purpose of this new regulation is that under such conditions, if the defendant is sentenced to death, sentencing must have been done very cautiously to show the fairness of the law. But this does not imply that a death sentence cannot be imposed given indirect evidence, if the testimony ultimately leads to the acceptability of the sentence.


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