Human rights added to draft law

Updated: 2012-03-05 07:50

By Zhao Yinan (China Daily)

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BEIJING - A draft amendment to the nation's criminal procedural law, which came under fire for permitting detention without informing family in some cases, has added the principle of protecting human rights to its general provisions, a spokesman said.

The draft amendment to the Criminal Procedural Law, which will be submitted for legislators' review during their annual plenary session, now includes a section on respecting and protecting human rights in the second article of its general provisions, which comprise the framework for the entire law, Li Zhaoxing, spokesman for the Fifth Plenary Session of the 11th National People's Congress, told a news conference on Sunday.

Li said the amendment aims to facilitate investigation in a timely manner, protect the innocent from being accused and ensure suspects' rights of defense and appeal.

Human rights added to draft law

Reporters from China and abroad raise hands to ask questions during the news conference of the Fifth Plenary Session of the 11th National People's Congress in Beijing on Sunday. [Feng Yongbin / China Daily]

Procedures stipulated in the bill "are aimed at ensuring people's freedom", so the draft follows the principle of protecting human rights, an important code in the Constitution, Li said.

The Criminal Procedural Law, also known as the "mini-constitution", was introduced in 1979 and last amended in 1996.

The law as it stands does not include the protection of human rights as an essential guideline, but "focuses more on cracking down on crimes and somehow has neglected procedural justice", said Chen Guangzhong, an expert on criminal procedure.

"Human rights protection is a universal principle that applies to all, including criminals. Even those who have been sentenced to death have the right to dispose of their legitimate property and their human organs," he said.

The draft bill, which was reviewed twice by the National People's Congress Standing Committee in August and December, drew broad criticism for partially permitting "secret detention".In the latest version, however, the draft limits the circumstances under which police can detain suspects without informing their families, said Li.

Chen, who was involved in the drafting, explained that the latest version dropped the articles covering detention without informing family members in response to a national outcry. Other changes in the draft include outlawing forced confessions.

"Reliance on self-incrimination can lead to torture during interrogation and even forced confessions," said Tian Wenchang, director of the criminal law committee of All China Lawyers Association.

Experts said the proposal is likely to be put to a vote upon the closure of the session, as China's Legislation Law stipulates that draft laws can be submitted for a vote after three reviews.