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Lawmakers urge improvement to avoid wrongful convictions

(CRI Online)    10:14, March 13, 2015

Chinese lawmakers are calling for changes to the judicial system to avoid wrongful convictions.

This comes on the heels of China's top judge taking the blame for a series of wrongful convictions in his work report to the National People's Congress.

Chinese Chief Justice Zhou Qiang is calling on his fellow judges to learn from their mistakes.

He's made the admonishment while delivering the Supreme People's Court annual work report to the NPC.

"We deeply reproach ourselves for letting wrongful convictions happen. Courts at all levels should take a serious lesson from these cases. We need to improve the system to effectively prevent and correct wrongful convictions in a timely manner."

Statistics laid out in the report show that last year, courts across the country re-heard more than 13-hundred cases, correcting a number of judicial errors.

Probably the most high-profile wrongful conviction is the rape-murder case in Inner Mongolia in 1996.

An 18-year-old was wrongly convicted for raping and murdering a woman, then put to death just weeks later.

In December, that verdict was overturned, 18-years after the young man was wrongly executed.

Judicial authorities in Inner Mongolia are now investigating those responsible for the miscarriage of justice, and are vowing to hold them accountable.

Zhang Liyong is the head judge of Henan's Higher People's Court, as well as an NPC deputy.

He says one of the keys to avoiding wrongful convictions is to promote the idea of a presumption of innocence.

"One of the major problems in wrongful convictions is that we didn't stick to the principle of presumption of innocence. It can be seen in our court hearings that the defendants in criminal cases have had to wear prison uniform or handcuffs. This in itself is a visual signal of a presumption of guilt and infringes on the defendants' human rights."

Through an edict brought down earlier this year, defendants can't be dressed in prison uniforms while on-trial.

This is part of a broader, 5-year legal reform plan set out by the Supreme People's Court.

At the same time, Zhu Lieyu, a lawyer and an NPC deputy, says the reforms also include a strict exclusion of evidence which is obtained through illegal means.

"It is necessary to make extortion of confessions by torture impossible from a technical point of view while designing the system. For example, we have called for 24-hour video recordings of interrogations. Any evidence from an interrogation which doesn't appear on-tape shouldn't be able to be submitted as evidence. "

Zhu is also recommending criminal liability for police or prosecutors who move forward with cases knowingly-based on false or misleading evidence.

The Supreme People's Procuratorate is planning to amend the protocols to allow prosecutors to supervise police investigations and the detention of suspects.

It is also researching a system which may allow for suspects to request a prosecutor from a different jurisdiction to review the case before it goes to trial.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Kong Defang,Yao Chun)

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