Legislation urged on police investigations

By Xie Chuanjiao (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-08-24 07:21

A senior prosecutor has proposed tougher legislation against the use of surveillance and "special investigation techniques" to better protect human rights.

Zhu Xiaoqing, deputy procurator-general of the Supreme People's Procuratorate, raised the proposals this week during a seminar sponsored by the Ministry of Public Security and Chinese People's Public Security University.

With the Standing Committee of National People's Congress, the top legislature, set to finalize the 7th amendment to the Criminal Procedure Law in October, the seminar discussed ways to improve the investigation process.

"The law needs to clarify the conditions, scope, procedures and judicial aftermath of the application of such detection methods," Zhu said.

Surveillance and investigation methods include phone-bugging, secret photography, videotaping, tracking, and mail and personal data inspection.

"We also have to strengthen protection for witnesses so they can present their testimony without fear," Zhu said.

Chen Weidong, a professor at the Law Institute of Renmin University of China, said though the current Security Law and Procuratorators Law have some provisions covering the application of technical and special investigation, they are not enough to protect basic human rights.

Chen proposed that "secret investigations" should only be used under specific circumstances, such as to safeguard national security or in anti-terror and drug-related cases.

"A strict judicial review system is needed to keep such investigations in check," Chen said.

"Only after getting authorization from a higher authority should investigators use such methods."

Zhu also proposed improving interrogation procedures to prevent forced confessions.

"Evidence collected illegally from forced confessions, torture, inducing and cheating must be stamped out," Zhu said.

"An effective mechanism against extracting confession by torture should be established."

Zhu proposed that interrogation of suspects be fully videotaped in such cases as homicide, graft, and other serious crimes.

Zhu also said procuratorate departments should improve internal supervision, making them more open and accountable.

Zhang Jun, vice-president of the Supreme People's Court, said suspects' lawyers should be allowed to be present during questioning.

"Having lawyers present during questioning is key to eliminating confessions by torture, so that the rights of suspects are protected," he said.

Although it is against the law, some cases of torture during interrogation have been widely reported by the media.

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