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Top judge underlines fairness and justice

By ZHAO YINAN | China Daily | Updated: 2013-07-05 01:05

All wrong verdicts 'must be corrected to uphold rule of law'

Top judge Zhou Qiang underlined his resolve to restore judicial credibility and uphold the rule of law in his debut speech on Thursday to chief judges from provincial-level courts nationwide.

"Any wrong verdicts, once confirmed, must be corrected. This reflects our confidence in the law and is required by justice," Zhou said, calling on the judges to prevent such verdicts from recurring.

Zhou, president of the Supreme People's Court, met the judges in Changchun, capital of Jilin province.

It was the first gathering of the judges since Zhou, 53, was elected top judge in March.

The two-day meeting is scheduled to discuss how to ensure fairness and justice for litigants, with the courts trying to restore their public image, which has been marred by wrong verdicts.

He Bing, a law professor at China University of Political Science and Law, said Zhou's speech is expected to guide judges for the next five years.

Zhou warned his colleagues that a single mistake in a judicial ruling can cause long-lasting harm to the litigants. "One single mistake, even out of 10,000 cases, means 100 percent unfairness to those involved."

He also urged the judges to strictly follow newly amended legal procedures that highlight the protection of human rights.

"Judges should do their utmost to ensure justice is done ... since it is the basis of the credibility and authority (of the courts)," he said.

"Judges must work independently (from governments). They should work with colleagues from other courts to overcome regional and departmental protectionism."

Zhou made the remarks after several people sentenced to prison were later found to be innocent.

In Fujian, Chen Kesheng and four of his "accomplices" were acquitted by a local court in May, 12 years after Chen was arrested for a bombing that killed one person.

Chen told Southern Metropolis Daily he had confessed because he could not stand torture during interrogation. Police involved in the case denied using torture.

Judges in Fujian declared Chen innocent because the evidence was inadequate to support the charges against him, according to a statement by Fujian High People's Court, to which Chen filed his appeal.

Ma Xinlan, chief judge of the court, said on Thursday the latest verdict was made in the spirit of justice and the rule of law. "This is an example of error being corrected in an appeal case. But it comes after a long time," she said.

Ma said that ensuring fairness and justice requires respect for evidence, legal procedures and proper application of laws.

In his speech, Zhou also said the rights and interests of litigants must be protected.

"We must make sure the poor can afford to file a lawsuit, and that he who has legal evidence in support of him can win the lawsuit," he said.

More transparency

On Thursday morning, Zhou gave a group media interview, the first in at least five years for a top judge.

Zhou said the restoration of judicial credibility requires efforts not only from judges, but also lawyers and the public.

The courts should reach out to the public, invite them to court hearings to make sure the procedures are transparent, and comply with the law.

"Cases that have sparked intense attention from society should be updated for the public in a timely manner," he said, suggesting that court hearings should be broadcast on television to keep people up to date with the latest information.

"People's right to a presence at a court hearing must be protected and all court verdicts, as well as how such verdicts have been made, should be released online," he said.

He called lawyers, whose legal rights are sometimes undermined, "an important force to push forward the rule of law in China" and said all courts should respect their rights. "Lawyers' rights to read case files and defend must be guaranteed," he said.

He Bing said although Zhou didn't touch upon any individual case, he has sent a message that the courts welcome supervision.

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