Criminal Justice

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When there is little presumption of innocence and much support for retributive justice, everyone in conflict with the law is at risk. In order to protect internationally recognized human rights and ensure the humanitarian treatment of people at odds with the law, Dui Hua focuses on criminal justice issues ranging from criminal procedures to capital punishment.
 
 

Criminal Procedure Law

Dui Hua has paid particular attention to reform of China’s Criminal Procedure Law (CPL). For the first time in 16 years, the National People’s Congress passed amendments to the law on March 14, 2012. Effective January 1, 2013, the law strengthens procedural protections for the vast majority of suspects and defendants, while further consolidating a separate, less-regulated criminal justice system for those accused of state security offenses—often used against people exercising their rights to free speech and association. Of the most worrying distinctions in treatment for political prisoners are the “disappearance clauses,” which allow those accused of state security offenses to be held in an undisclosed location for up to six months.

Generally positive aspects of the amended law include new provisions for:

  • Death penalty cases: expanded access to legal aid, recorded interrogations, longer trials, mandatory appellate hearings, and more rigorous death penalty review
  • Compulsory medical treatment: determined by courts, overseen by procuratorates
  • Non-custodial measures: increased use of bail and similar measures, procuratorial review of detention
  • Women: allowing those with life terms to serve outside prison while pregnant, nursing
  • Juvenile justice: record sealing, deferred prosecution


Death Penalty Reform

Estimated No. of Executions in China
2002 12,000
2003 10,000
2004 10,000
2005 8,000
2006 7,000
2007 6,500
2008 5,000
2009 5,000
2010 5,000
2011 4,000
2012 3,000

Dui Hua has actively promoted China’s death penalty reform since 2005, when Executive Director John Kamm chaired the plenary session on China at the Third International Conference on the Abolition of the Death Penalty held in Paris. Kamm discusses death penalty reform in direct dialogue with members of China’s judiciary and also provides consultation to foreign governments, the United Nations, and nongovernmental organizations.

Dui Hua regularly publishes estimates of the number of executions in China, while the actual number remains a state secret. The number of executions has dropped significantly since the Supreme People’s Court regained the power to review all death sentences in 2007.

Dui Hua reported an estimated 4,000 executions in 2011. Dui Hua’s estimate was further reduced to 3,000 in 2012, due in part to an estimate provided by Professor William A. Schabas, an international criminal law and human rights scholar with honorary professorship at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

Find out more about capital punishment in Dialogue and Human Rights Journal