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Lifelong responsibility

China Daily | Updated: 2013-08-15 08:07

The lifelong responsibility that the police, prosecutors and judges will now have to bear for the cases they handle marks a positive and much-needed step toward a fair judicial system and will help prevent miscarriages of justice.

The Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, which oversees law enforcement, issued a guideline on Tuesday, stipulating that law enforcement personnel will have lifelong responsibilities for their roles in judgments that turn out to be wrong. This is the first time this onus has been put on law enforcers.

The guideline reiterated compliance with the principle of being innocent until proven guilty, due procedure for evidence collection and the establishment of an accountability mechanism for misjudgments.

It also required changes be made to the current judicial appraisal system, in which performance is usually based on how many reported cases are resolved, and called for the establishment of a scientific performance assessment mechanism to replace it. The quota-based performance appraisal mechanism has proved to have played a role in motivating some law enforcers to use improper means, most notoriously torture, to acquire confessions from suspects in the past.

The guideline came amid loud public calls for judicial fairness following the revelation of several miscarriages of justice across the country, which has seriously tarnished the image of the judicial system.

On Tuesday, Yu Yingsheng, a man from Anhui province, was announced innocent by the provincial high court after serving a 17-year term in prison. Yu was sentenced to life imprisonment by a local court in 1996 on the charge of murdering his wife. In March, Zhang Hui and his uncle Zhang Gaoping were acquitted of rape by Zhejiang provincial high court after they were sentenced to a suspended death sentence and 15 years in prison respectively in 1997.

Yet no explicitly worded legal mechanism has been put in place to hold accountable those responsible for bringing these cases to court and handing down the sentences.

To give law enforcers lifelong responsibility for the cases they handle will make them think twice before acting rashly or expediently, which will help avoid miscarriages of justice.

Delivering fair judgments is the only way to rebuild the dented credibility of the judicial system.

(China Daily 08/15/2013 page8)

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