China Advances Criminal Procedure Reform

(Xinhua News Agency, Oct. 10, 2016. Complete text:) Beijing - China has issued guidelines on criminal procedure reform and the role of court trials in a bid to reduce wrongful convictions.

The guidelines issued by the supreme court and supreme procuratorate, along with the ministries of public security, state security and justice, seek to improve criminal procedure by enhancing the court’s role in fact finding, identifying evidence, protecting rights and impartial judgment.

Reform of criminal procedure began when the Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China in October 2014 decided to fully advance the rule of law.

The guidelines were approved at a key meeting of the leading group for overall reform of the central authorities on June 27. The document was signed on July 20 by the Supreme People’s Court and the Supreme People’s Procuratorate, along with the ministries of public security, state security and justice.

The 21-clause document stresses the presumption of innocence; identifies several major problems in the current litigation system; puts forward a package of changes in the rules of evidence and investigation; and sets out the court’s key role as protecting the rights of all interested parties.

Courts, procuratorates and the police should cooperate to ensure that innocent people are not wrongly convicted, it said.

In particular, the fifth clause stipulates that interrogations should be improved to prevent forced confessions. It also states that authorities must not oblige any person to incriminate themselves.

The guidelines stipulate that courts should acknowledge reasonable doubt in crime cases, and make decisions accordingly.

The reform reflects the requirements of modern criminal justice, and clarifies the direction of China’s criminal procedure system, said Professor Bian Jianlin, head of the Procedural Law Research Institute of the China University of Political Science and Law.

Trial-centered reform ...

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