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Violations in extended custody of suspects drop
By Meng Yan (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-11-18 22:35

The number of criminal suspects under unlawfully extended custody, a major source of human rights violations, has been reduced to the lowest in history, a spokesman for China's top public prosecutors' office said Thursday.

"Public prosecutors' offices across the country will take tougher measures to virtually root up unlawfully extended custody as soon as possible," said Zhang Zhongfang, spokesman for the Supreme People's Procuratorate.

Zhang said 95.9 per cent of the 7,064 cases of unlawfully extended custody had been exposed and resolved by last month and the phenomenon of serious illegally extended custody for more three years has been eliminated.

Currently 289 criminal suspects are still kept under illegally extended custody, Zhang said. Most of them are held in South China's Guangdong Province and North China's Hebei and Shanxi provinces.

Zhang said the efforts by public prosecutors to tackle this problem is consistent with the constitutional principle of "respecting and preserving human rights."

It is a common practice for criminal suspects to be held in detention centres until the court makes its final judgment. This means police, public prosecutors and judges can all illegally hold a suspect in custody for longer than is allowed.

The legal period of custody for criminal suspects ranges from 14 days to six-and-a-half-months between the arrest and trial, according to China's Criminal Procedure Code. Public prosecutors' offices have the function of checking such misdeeds.

Some criminal suspects are sometimes held in custody for longer than the legal time limit due to a dereliction of duty or corruption among police, public prosecutors or judges.

The spokesman said custody is sometimes illegally prolonged because investigation into some major, complicated cases can not be completed within the period set by law.

Zhang said it usually takes much more time than that fixed by law to probe crimes committed by organized criminal gangs, cases endangering national security and cases involving foreign parties.

He said related laws should be revised to fit into the real situation.

Last year, the Supreme People's Court, the Ministry of Public Security and the Supreme People's Procuratorate, jointly issued a notice to subordinate bodies for the review, resolution and prevention of illegally extended custody cases in every investigation and trial.

"We will further enhance the awareness of human-rights protection and procedural justice and set up a long-term mechanism to prevent and correct possible cases of unlawful extended custody in the future," Zhang said.

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