In a major step to safeguard human rights, the Supreme People's Court is
expected to assume all powers to review and approve death sentences from January
Shen Deyong, vice-president of the Supreme People's Court, made the
announcement on Friday at a session of the Standing Committee of the National
People's Congress (NPC), the country's top legislature.
A draft of an amendment to the Organic Law on the People's Courts was
submitted on Friday to the NPC Standing Committee and will be discussed by
legislators in panels on Saturday.
Voting on the proposed amendment will probably take place on Tuesday, the
final day of the current session.
The Organic Law on the People's Courts authorizes high people's courts at
provincial, municipal and autonomous region levels to review death sentences
involving murder, rape, robbery, explosion and other serious violations of
But death sentences in other types of cases economic crimes, for example must
still be approved by the Supreme People's Court.
It is necessary to revise the stipulation in the death sentence approval
system to ensure the consistent administration of justice, Supreme People's
Court President Xiao Yang said.
"Cases in which the death sentence has been issued should be submitted to the
Supreme People's Court for approval except in those cases in which the judgments
were issued by the Supreme People's Court itself," the proposed revision states.
Normally, laws to be approved by the NPC Standing Committee require three
rounds of discussions before a vote is taken.
In fact, a revision to the Criminal Procedure Law in 1996 and the Criminal
Law amendment in 1997 both had clear stipulations requiring death sentences to
be approved by the Supreme People's Court. But such stipulations have not been
A nationwide criminal trial work conference is expected to be held by the end
of this year to prepare for the reform.
The Supreme People's Court and high courts at the provincial, municipal and
autonomous region levels have already taken steps in preparation for the move.
Starting in July, all appeals in death sentence cases were required to be
heard in open session.
In the past, provincial, municipal and autonomous region courts normally
approved death sentences themselves after reviewing legal documents.
The Supreme People's Court has also added three criminal tribunals to be in
charge of death sentence reviews.
Also on Friday, NPC Standing Committee members heard reports on discussions
of a draft of the anti-money-laundering law, a draft revision to the property
law and draft changes of an amendment to the Law on the Protection of Minors.
The draft property law will be heard for the sixth time on Sunday during the
ongoing session. It is expected to be reviewed again at the NPC Standing
Committee's session in December.
If everything goes smoothly, it is expected that the basic civil law will be
voted on at the NPC's annual full session in March.
The anti-money-laundering law will also be voted on
Tuesday after a third discussion by top legislators this