China top judge renews campaign against wrongful convictions, citing execution of innocent man

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BEIJING — China's top judge renewed his commitment to uncovering and overturning wrongful convictions, citing to national legislators on Thursday the much-publicized case of an 18-year-old executed and confirmed years later to have been innocent.

Chinese courts at all levels overturned convictions in 1,317 criminal cases last year, Zhou Qiang, president of the Supreme People's Court, said Thursday in an annual report to the legislature.

Courts will not tolerate attempts to cover up wrongful convictions and will demand lessons be learned whenever such cases were discovered, Zhou said in reading out the report.

"We demand that facts be pursued, that mistakes be corrected and that where wrongful convictions are found, they be overturned out of a sense of responsibility for the law and the people," Zhou said.

Zhou singled out the miscarriage of justice in the case of Huugjilt, an ethnic Mongolian teenager convicted and executed for the 1996 rape and murder of a woman in a public toilet. A serial rapist and murderer confessed to the crime in 2005 and was convicted and sentenced to death in February.

Huugjilt's conviction was posthumously overturned, and his parents received an apology and financial settlement.

Zhou said authorities were continuing to investigate those assigned to the case for their responsibility in obtaining the wrongful conviction.

China's courts have long relied heavily on confessions, many of them believed to have been coerced, and trials almost always result in convictions.

Zhou and others have sought to reduce the use of confessions, banned police torture and argued against anti-crime campaigns that demand swift arrests and accelerated trials and are blamed for bad judgments.

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