Supreme Court to 'strictly control' death penalty

Updated: 2006-12-28 19:04

BEIJING -- A Supreme People's Court spokesman on Thursday reiterated China's intentions to exert strict controls over the application of the death penalty ahead of January 1, 2007, the date the Supreme People's Court takes back the power of death penalty review.

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"China's consistent principle is to maintain the death penalty but use it strictly," said the spokesman.

"China's courts will adhere to this principle, hand out death penalty with great caution and try to minimize its use to ensure capital punishment is only given to a handful of criminals who commit extremely notorious crimes," the spokesman said.

He said the Supreme People's Court (SPC) would further reduce the use of death penalty for several crimes for which capital punishment was commonly used in the past.

He said the defendant's rights must be fully safeguarded and any testimony extracted through illegal means must be declared invalid.

The SPC held that the method of handing down a death penalty with a reprieve not only severely punishes crimes and serves as a major deterrent but also reduces the number of executions. This method shall be used more in future, the spokesman said.

More leniency will be shown in death with penalty-related trials, according to the spokesman. "Those who plead guilty and provide important information or those who are accessories in a criminal case will, in general, be given more lenient punishments, " said the spokesman.

The death penalty will be administered very cautiously in criminal cases involving disputes between families and neighbors, according to the SPC.

"But for extremely notorious criminal cases with overwhelming evidence, the death penalty with immediate execution will be passed down without hesitation," said the spokesman.

For having adequate personnel to review death penalty cases, the Supreme People's Court has added two vice president posts, two full-time judicial committee member posts and three criminal tribunals.

Currently, the SPC has five criminal tribunals. The second criminal tribunal will be responsible for reviewing the death penalty for economic crimes and the other four tribunals will review the death penalties given for all other kinds of crimes, said Jiang Xingchang, vice president of the SPC.

The SPC has transferred qualified judges from local courts, experienced lawyers and law professors to the SPC to carry out the death penalty reviews.

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