China Says It Will Reduce Number Of Executions

Monday, March 12th 2007, 6:55 am
By: News On 6

BEIJING (AP) _ China should reduce the number of death sentences it carries out, but the world's leading executioner of prisoners cannot afford to do away with capital punishment altogether, the country's top legal bodies said.

In a joint statement released late Sunday, the Supreme People's Court, Ministry of Public Security, Ministry of Justice and the country's top prosecutor also said condemned prisoners should not be paraded through the streets and suspects should not be tortured.

China is believed to carry out more court-ordered executions than all other nations combined. Amnesty International says China executed at least 1,770 people in 2005 _ about 80 percent of the world's total.

The true number is thought to be many times higher. London-based Amnesty has cited a senior member of China's national legislature as saying some 10,000 people are executed each year.

``Our country still cannot abolish the death penalty but should gradually reduce its application,'' the statement said. ``But where there is a possibility someone should not be executed, then without exception the person should not be killed.''

Along with crimes such as murder, rape, and drug smuggling, the death sentence also has been imposed in nonviolent cases such as tax evasion and corruption.

China sought to tighten the rules over the application of the death penalty following a series of high-profile cases involving wrongful convictions and torture. Rules enacted last year restored a requirement that all executions first be approved by the Supreme People's Court, something that had been waived amid the ongoing ``strike hard'' anti-crime campaign.

In one 2005 case, a woman believed murdered in the 1980s in the central province of Hunan reappeared, 16 years after the man convicted of killing her was executed. At the time of the execution, the court said the defendant had confessed.

Chinese police often are accused of torturing suspects into making confessions, and the document said it was wrong to use statements or confessions obtained through torture or threats ``as the basis for a case.''

Officials were obligated to ``ensure crime suspects and defendants can fully exercise their rights to defense and other procedural rights,'' the statement said.

The document said police must be more thorough and obey the laws in identifying and collecting evidence.

It also required officials to ensure that condemned persons were not paraded through the streets or presented before crowds at anti-crime rallies, practices that once were common but are now usually only found in rural areas.