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Rules protect rights of detainees
By Jiang Zhuqing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-08-21 00:34

Questioning procedures in China are being revamped in new rules that aim to protect the rights of people in custody.

From October 1, procedures will be standardized and guidelines set for the management of detention rooms, said Ke Liangdong, deputy director of the Statutory Bureau of the Ministry of Public Security (MPS).

Targets will be set so the questioner is clear what he or she is aiming to achieve from the questioning.

A law passed in February 1995 started off the process and has already played a positive role in safeguarding security and upholding the law, said Ke.

The recent moves have added to the existing law.

Reports of malpractice in the sector have fuelled some protests among the public, said Ke, especially in cases where the police have spent far too long questioning defendants.

"In extreme cases, suspects have committed suicide in detention because of negligence in the management of detention rooms and disregard for basic human rights ."

Under the new regulations, police will only be allowed to detain suspects for 24 hours, or 48 hours in certain circumstances with special approval.

Pregnant or breast-feeding women, juveniles (under 16) and senior citizens (above 70) must not be subjected to more than four hours' questioning, nor locked up. If makeshift detention rooms have to be set up for the purpose of questioning, they must first be given approval by public security departments above city level, under the new rules.

Police who break the new guidelines will be punished, Ke said.

Any deaths in custody will be investigated for maltreatment and negligence. Criminal prosecutions could follow.

Police authorities will also risk stiff penalties, the official said.

The MPS will also put more regulations in place so that relatives are kept informed about the welfare and condition of those in custody.

Extended detentions will not be allowed, Ke said.

In recent years, the MPS has mounted a clean-up drive in the law enforcement sector.

Statistics from the ministry show that last year 387 policemen were fired for misconduct and almost 1,000 prosecuted.

China has also dismissed 33,761 unqualified policemen and cleared 10,940 sub-standard workers out of public security departments between August and November last year, Xinhua reported.

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