CHINA. DEATH PENALTY WILL STAY DESPITE MISCARRIAGES OF JUSTICE
|A prisoner is shown being led to his execution, April 2002
September 28, 2005: Supreme Court Vice-President Wan Exiang said China would not do away with the death penalty despite a series of recent miscarriages of justice, but would improve its review of lower courts' rulings.
"The question is almost beyond discussion in China because the millennium-old notion of murderers paying with their own lives is deeply ingrained in people's minds," the China Daily quoted Wan as saying.
A series of recent wrongful death sentences had unsettled the public, putting pressure on the government to address concerns about gross miscarriages of justice in a judicial system that was partial to local governments and police and largely unchecked.
Wrongful sentences were, however, often unreported as families had been paid off to keep quiet and people were never proven innocent. Some Chinese academics and human rights bodies had called for a moratorium on the death penalty in China, saying the country's dysfunctional criminal justice system meant many innocent people were being executed. Wan, however, said the Supreme Court would reclaim its right to review death penalty cases.
China's law requires the Supreme Court review every death sentence passed in the country to help avoid wrongful executions. But amidst a rise in violent crimes, the National People's Congress (NPC), the country's legislature, revised some laws in the early 1980s to allow the Supreme Court to transfer death sentence reviews for some violent offenses to high courts at the provincial level.
The provincial courts, however, review cases based on written reports instead of hearing the cases.
Wan said the Supreme Court would set up another layer of courts to hear the cases, but no timeline was given.
"The Supreme People's Court will add three criminal trial courts to cope with taking back the death penalty review power," Wan said.
He said the move was vital to maintaining impartiality. (Sources: Agence France Presse, 28/09/2005)