China tightens control over death sentence
Updated: 2006-10-27 17:15
China's top legislature on Friday began to deliberate a
draft amendment to the law on the country's court system, in an effort to
restrict the power of provincial courts in issuing death sentences.
Once pronounced by provincial courts, all death penalties
must be reviewed and ratified by the Supreme People's Court (SPC), according to
the draft amendment to the country's organic law on the people's courts.
The draft, tabled to the 24th session of the Standing
Committee of 10th National People's Congress (NPC) for the first reading, is
supposed to come into effect on January 1, 2007, with the approval of the
The SPC had been responsible for
reviewing all death penalty cases until 1983 when, as part of a major crime
crackdown, provincial courts were authorized to issue the final verdicts on
death sentences on crimes that seriously endangered public security and social
order, including homicide, rape, robbery and bombing.
The revision is widely believed to have contributed to the
reduction of the country's crime rate in the mid 1980s. Ministry of Public
Security figures in September 1984 showed that the number of criminal cases from
January to August that year was down 31 percent on the previous year.
However, the practice of provincial courts both considering
death sentence appeals and conducting the final review has long been criticized
for causing miscarriages of justice.
From the beginning
of 2005, the Chinese media has exposed several errors in the judgement of death
sentence cases, criticizing courts for lacking caution in handing down capital
Sources with the supreme court said the
SPC had been considering taking back the power to ratify death sentences from
the provincial courts since 1999.
In October 2005, the SPC issued its Second Five-Year (2006-2010) Reform
Plan, announcing that it had decided to take back the power from the provincial
courts according to the principle of "respecting and protecting human rights and
exerting strict controls over the death penalty."