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Courts to be cautious over death sentence
By Liu Li (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-10-26 05:44

The Supreme People's Court will continue to be cautious in giving death sentences in an attempt to ensure human rights, Chief Justice Xiao Yang vowed yesterday.

"Although China still has the death penalty to punish severe criminals, we will try to execute less people to avoid any unjust cases," Xiao told the current session of the Standing Committee of the 10th National People's Congress yesterday in a report.

If criminals can be given a lighter punishment according to the law, or if the death sentence is not urgent, the Supreme People's Court and high people's courts of provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions will commute the original death sentence to death sentence with a reprieve, or life imprisonment,

"Judgments that are found to lack sufficient evidence will be submitted for a new trial," Xiao said.

Among all the death sentences given to the Supreme People's Court for judicial review since 2003, 22 per cent were commuted to death penalty with a reprieve or life imprisonment, according to Xiao, President of the Supreme People's Court.

Another 7 per cent of the death sentences that were submitted to the court for approval were retried.

In the high people's courts in provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions, 38 per cent of judgements were commuted, and 4 per cent retried, according to Xiao.

The Supreme People's Court authorized death sentences for some crimes to be given by high people's courts of provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions in the 1980's.

It is reported that the Supreme People's Court will withdraw this power next year to better ensure justness and cautiousness of death sentences.

At the NPC Standing Committee session yesterday, top prosecutor Jia Chunwang told legislators that the Supreme People's Procuratorate is drafting measures to strengthen examination of evidence legitimacy to avoid extorting confession by torture.

The move aims to better ensure the rights of suspects, according to Jia.

As the national law supervision authorities, procuratorates fulfil duties such as arrest authorization, prosecution and investigation into crimes by governmental staff.

(China Daily 10/26/2005 page2)

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