Full Text: Judicial Reform in China

III. Strengthening Human Rights Protection

To strengthen the protection of human rights is an important goal of China's judicial reform. China's legislative body promulgated its 2004 amendments to the Constitution, adding "the state respects and protects human rights" to it. The Criminal Procedure Law amended in 2012 included "respecting and protecting human rights" in the general provisions. China's judicial organs are taking effective measures in accordance with the law to deter and prohibit extorting confessions by torture, protect the rights to defense of criminal suspects and defendants, protect attorneys' rights to exercising their duties, limit the applicable measures of detention to protect the lawful rights of detainees, strengthen the protection of the legal rights and interests of detainees, strengthen the protection of juvenile suspects and defendants, strictly control and prudently apply the death penalty, improve the systems of community rehabilitation for inmates and assistance for persons released after serving their terms, and improve the state compensation system and establish systems including the criminal victim relief system, in an attempt to materialize efforts in human rights protection in the sphere of criminal justice.

1. Prohibiting and Deterring Extortion of Confessions by Torture

To improve the investigation and questioning system is a prerequisite for building the rule of law, and it is also an important method for strengthening judicial supervision and protecting the legal rights and interests of criminal suspects in accordance with the law. China is constantly improving its laws to prohibit the exacting of evidence through torture or other illegal means by judicial officials.

Banning self-incrimination. The Criminal Procedure Law amended in 2012 clearly stipulates that no person may be forced to prove his or her own guilt, and no criminal suspects or defendants may be forced to confess.

Excluding illegally obtained evidence. The Criminal Procedure Law amended in 2012 makes it clear that confessions by a suspect or a defendant obtained through extortion or other illegal means and witness's testimony and victim's statements obtained through the use of violence, threats or other illegal means should be excluded from evidence. If physical or documentary evidence is collected in ways violating legal procedures and severely affecting judicial justice, such evidence should be excluded if no correction or justification is provided. It also stipulates the specific procedure for exclusion of such evidence. Once evidence that should be excluded is found by public security organs, people's procuratorates or people's courts during the course of investigation, prosecution review or trial, such evidence should be excluded in accordance with the law.

Improving the system of detention, taking a person into custody after arrest, and interrogation. A person who has been detained must be sent to a house of detention within 24 hours. When a person is arrested, he/she must be taken into custody immediately in a house of detention, where the interrogation shall be conducted. With advances in the IT-based law enforcement by judicial organs, interrogation, detention, court trials and activities happening in places of custody are recorded and video taped. The practice of recording and videotaping investigation and questioning processes is widely adopted. The law explicitly states that for crimes punishable by life imprisonment or death and other serious crimes, audio or video recording of the interrogation process is mandatory. The audio or video recording should cover the entire process of the questioning and should be complete.

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