CHINA. CAPITAL CASES MORE TRANSPARENT
June 14, 2007: trials that could lead to a death sentence will be subjected to further openness and transparency in a bid to ensure that the Chinese legal system is just. "First-instance hearings of capital punishment cases must be open," said a circular released by the Supreme People's Court.
"Courts should eventually carry out public trials for appeal hearings in criminal cases," the document said. "They should also hold more public trials for appeals in civil and administrative cases." For a variety of reasons, some appeal hearings are not open to the public. For instance, when it is clear that a verdict was reached via an incorrect application of the law, or that the evidence submitted in the first trial was insufficient, then it is usually considered unnecessary to hold a second public trial. Though the Criminal Procedural Law, Civil Procedural Law and Administrative Procedural Law have laid out the types of cases that can be tried in public, the circular was the first specialized document on the subject.
It emphasized the need for timely, open trials in "full scale". A "full-scale" public trial includes an open hearing, open proof-lodging, open cross-examinations and "public announcement of the judgment". It also requires the public release of any information contributing to the protection of litigants' rights according to trial requirements. The country's highest court also called for more in-court announcements of judgments, with fewer mandatory sentences and pronouncements on fixed dates. Legal experts hailed the new regulations, saying they represented an important step toward ensuring justice, curbing corruption and protecting litigants' rights. (Sources: China Daily, 15/06/2007)