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Bid to end unlawful extended custody
( 2003-07-23 07:45) (China Daily)

China's top public prosecutors' office, the Supreme People's Procuratorate, Tuesday pledged to take tougher measures to tackle unlawfully extended custody, a major source of human-rights violations against criminal suspects.

"We are determined to expose the problem, solve the problem, invite the public to supervise our job and therefore better protect the rights of citizens," said Zhao Dengju, deputy procurator-general of the top public prosecutor's office.

It occurs sometimes that criminal suspects are held at detention centres until the court makes its final judgement. This means that the police, public prosecutors and judges could all illegally hold a suspect in custody for longer than is allowed.

The legal period of custody of criminal suspects ranges from 14 days to six-and-a-half-months between the arrest and the trial, according to China's Criminal Procedure Code. The 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 either a dereliction of duty or corruption among the police, public prosecutors or judges.

Jian Shumou, a resident of Central China's Henan Province, was one of these victims, according to sources with the highest public prosecutor's office.

These local policemen arrested Jian earlier this year for being allegedly involved in some criminal activities, although the public prosecutors sources refused to identify these.

The local public prosecutors did not approve Jian's detention as a result of insufficient evidence. And the local re-education-through-labour agency did not put Jian under its charge.

However, Jian was unlawfully held in custody for three months instead of being released on time according to law.

The local public prosecutors' office later charged one of the policemen who played a major role in Jian's unlawfully extended custody for alleged false imprisonment.

This case was part of the efforts by public prosecutors' offices across the country to root out unlawfully extended custody.

In a two-month major national campaign carried out by Zhao's office from early May, a total of 359 cases of unlawfully extended custody were exposed and resolved.

"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 unlawfully extended custody in the future," he said.

Chen Ruihua, a professor at the Law School of Peking University, said that the protection of suspects' rights was vital in order to prove that justice was being done.

Chen added that unlawfully extended custody shows an extreme indifference for basic human dignity and freedoms.

Zhao's office yesterday also opened two hotlines and an e-mail address for public complaints regarding unlawfully extended custody.

The two hotlines are 010-6865-0468, 010-6525-2000 and the e-mail address is cyjb@spp.gov.cn.

(China Daily 07/23/2003 page1)

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