Legal authority steps up efforts to resolve cases of detention without trial

Updated 2017-02-27 09:29:19 Global Times

Wang Jin, 30, was sentenced to death in July 2016 after spending eight years in prison waiting to learn of his fate.

Wang, who was convicted of kidnapping and killing an 11-year-old boy in Huizhou, South China's Guangdong Province, is just one of many prisoners that have faced "prolonged detention without charge."

Wang was one of 4,459 people who were given their final verdicts between 2013 and October 2016 after being jailed for more than three years without an official sentence, said Cao Jianming, the head of China's Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) in November.

Such prolonged detention without charge often occurs if a case is complicated, lacks sufficient evidence or has "doubtful points," in which circumstances officials cannot declare a suspect guilty but are often reluctant to free them, He Ting, an associate professor at the Criminal Legal Science Research Institute with Beijing Normal University, told the Global Times on Thursday.

"I killed two more people," Wang revealed after he was sentenced to death by the Guangdong High People's Court in 2010.

His revelation shocked the police, leaving them frantically searching for evidence for five years. Based on his confession, the Huizhou Intermediate People's Court accepted a retrial and filed a new case in July 2013.

Wang's confession prolonged his case and left him rotting in a prison cell for six more years after his first sentence in 2010 until his final death sentence in 2016, because of the time it took police to identify his accomplice and gather evidence.

Many other cases are prolonged due to similar reasons - awaiting a retrial for extended periods due to unclear facts or insufficient evidence, and confessions of other crimes after an initial verdict, He said.

This kind of waiting is defined as "prolonged detention without charge" when suspects or defendants are detained for over five years without a prosecution or trial.

No matter the cause, such a long custody duration "deprives prisoners of their personal liberty and violates their basic rights," He noted.

"It affects not only their lives but the efficiency and value of legal procedures."

Prolonged custody places suspects under huge mental pressure, which severely violates their rights and frequently leads to their family members petitioning the government. Thus it creates disharmony and instability in society and damages the authorities'' stature and credibility, China Central Televison (CCTV) reported on February 21.

"Suspects usually are not informed about how long they will be jailed but will be informed when the deadline for their release arrives or an extension is filed," Liu Dalai, a Beijing-based criminal lawyer, told the Global Times.

Reform ahead

Among the 4,459 people involved in the prolonged detention without charge cases resolved in the last three years, 41 were found innocent and 10 saw their charges dropped, according to the SPP.

"Although those 51 people account for only a small portion of the 4,459 people, it earns huge attention," Chen Mengqi, an official from the SPP, was quoted by the CCTV as saying.

The freed 51, some of whom were jailed for more than five or 10 years without trial, later recieved State compensation. But their lost years cannot be measured by money, Chen said.

Officials prefer to jail suspects in order to punish them and to keep people who they consider to be dangerous out of society, rather than releasing or bailing them, Liu noted, adding that this leads to many people being unnecessarily detained.

However, "according to the law, these kinds of cases which might not exceed the legal duration of detention, are not illegal," He told the Global Times.

For example, He explained, there is no set deadline for judicial reviews of death sentences and cases where identities of suspects can not be verified do not in China.

China's top prosecutor, the SPP, released a draft rule on these cases on August 2015, demanding that cases involving detention without charge for longer than five years should be handed over to the provincial procuratorates and those invoving prolonged detention without charge for more than eight years should be handed to the SPP, the prosecutor said.

China has been working to solve excessive detention cases since the end of the last century and this clearance of 4,459 people involved in "prolonged detention without charge cases shows China is attaching greater importance to citizens' basic rights," He said.

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