Regulation forbids use of illegally obtained evidence in court cases
China on Tuesday released a regulation on exclusion of illegally obtained evidence in criminal cases, banning confessions by torture and forced self-incrimination, a move experts said would eliminate wrongful convictions.
"It is illegal for police or prosecutors to extort confessions through torture, threats or cheating. Forced self-incrimination is also prohibited. Confessions, witness testimonies and depositions of victims obtained by force will no longer be accepted as evidence," read a document jointly released by the Supreme People's Court (SPC), the Supreme People's Procuratorate, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of State Security, and the Ministry of Justice at a press conference on Tuesday.
"The new regulation further defines illegally obtained evidence, including evidence obtained via threat and repeated confession following a forced confession, which should not be regarded as valid evidence," Zhang Jianwei, a law professor with Tsinghua University, told the Global Times.
Audio and visual recordings must be made of interrogations of those implicated in serious criminal cases that carry death penalty or life imprisonment, the regulation said. It stipulates that all original recordings must be kept intact.
Criminal suspects and their defenders are allowed to apply for exclusion of illegal evidence during court investigation, according to the regulation.
"The wrongful convictions in recent years including the well-known Huugjilt case, which has been rectified, all involved confessions by torture and illegally obtained evidence," read a statement released on the SPC's WeChat account on Tuesday.
Huugjilt, an 18-year-old man from North China's Inner Mongolia, was wrongly sentenced to death in 1996 for raping and killing a woman in a public restroom. The sentence was overturned in 2014, 18 years after the young man died. Huugjilt was declared innocent by the High People's Court of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in December 2014. His parents were granted State compensation worth more than 2 million yuan (9,946).
"The departments of public security, procuratorate and justice should counterbalance each other rather than cooperating closely. Meanwhile, police' and prosecutors' aim to bring the criminals to justice sometimes can be a cause for illegal gathering of evidence," said Zhang.
"After a set of laws and regulations are formulated, they need to be improved step by step. The new regulation complements the existing regulation passed in 2010 and will be further improved in the future," Qu Xinjiu, dean of the Criminal Justice School at the China University of Political Science and Law, told the Global Times.
The five departments first released relevant regulations on illegally obtained evidence in 2010, according to the SPC.
The new regulation will bind police and prosecutors to collect, examine and use evidence in accordance with law, which is an effective way to prevent and eliminate wrongful convictions, said the SPC statement.