Review 'not a signal of lenience'

By Xie Chuanjiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-08 07:01

JINAN: The nation's top court now reviews all death sentences but it does not mean there will be lenience when it comes to dealing with serious crime.

Severe punishment will be meted out for terror and gang crimes and to those who jeopardize national security, warned Xiao Yang, president of the Supreme People's Court (SPC).

Starting this year, the supreme court took back the power of reviewing all death penalties from lower courts.

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In October, the National People's Congress Standing Committee, the top legislature, passed an amendment to the Organic Law of the People's Courts, vesting such authority solely with the SPC.

"Unifying death penalty standards across the country is important for improving human rights and ensuring fair trials," Xiao told a conference of national high court presidents in the capital city of East China's Shandong Province.

The SPC will also strengthen supervision over lower courts in death penalty cases, he said.

Figures released at the conference show that in the first 11 months of last year, courts across the nation handled 593,020 criminal cases and sentenced 759,230 criminals, a year-on-year rise of 1.6 percent and 4.3 percent.

Of the convicts, 276,479 committed serious violent crimes, such as murder, rape, robbery, kidnapping or taking part in gang activities. The number sentenced to death was not revealed.

More than 1,400 criminal defendants were found not guilty and released.

To prepare for the reverting of the power of review, the SPC last July ordered all provincial high courts to hear death penalty appeals in open session to ensure justice and avoid improper verdicts.

Xiao said the nation will retain the death penalty but use it judiciously. "We should try to keep a balance between strictness and leniency."

Those who plead guilty and provide important information leading to the capture of accomplices in a criminal case will receive lesser punishment, Xiao said.

Courts should be especially cautious in imposing the death penalty in cases resulting from disputes among family members or neighbors, he added.

Cao Jianming, vice-president of the SPC, said if supreme court judges find the evidence is inadequate or the litigation process improper when reviewing a death penalty, they should submit the case to the SPC's judicial committee, which will then review the case with a representative of the Supreme People's Procuratorate in attendance.

Currently, the SPC has five criminal tribunals of which one is responsible for reviewing the death penalty for economic crimes and the other four death penalties given for all other kinds of crimes.

(China Daily 01/08/2007 page1)

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