Land­mark judg­ment up­holds jus­tice

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT -

Dec 2, 2016, is an im­por­tant day for a per­son named Nie Shu­bin, or rather his fam­ily. Twenty-one years after Nie was sen­tenced to death and ex­e­cuted for rape and mur­der, he was found in­no­cent by the Sec­ond Cir­cuit Court of the Supreme Peo­ple’s Court.

Nie was ex­e­cuted in 1995, so the court declar­ing him in­no­cent can­not bring him back to life. Yet the court ver­dict is a land­mark in China’s ju­di­cial his­tory.

It was in June 2016 that the Supreme Peo­ple’s Court de­cided to start the re­trial of Nie’s case. Ear­lier, in De­cem­ber 2014, it had asked the Shan­dong pro­vin­cial peo­ple’s court to re-in­ves­ti­gate the case. For two full years, scores of peo­ple, in­clud­ing judges, lawyers, as well as jour­nal­ists, en­deav­ored to un­earth the truth. They were search­ing for the an­swer to one question: Was Nie in­no­cent as his fam­ily claimed?

The Supreme Peo­ple’s Court ver­dict proves he was in­deed in­no­cent. As a lead­ing of­fi­cial of the court said in an in­ter­view after the re­trial, they in­vested much time and ef­forts into the case to make sure the court ver­dict stands the test of time. In­cor­rect judg­ments hap­pen in all coun­tries, usu­ally be­cause of the lack of strong ev­i­dence. A ju­di­ciary that sub­se­quently cor­rects a wrong rul­ing is the one that up­holds jus­tice.

Nie’s case is a tragedy be­cause he was wrongly sen­tenced and ex­e­cuted. Wang Shu­jin, who was ar­rested for com­mit­ting some other crimes in 2005, ad­mit­ted he was guilty of the rape and mur­der for which Nie was ex­e­cuted. It was his ad­mis­sion of guilt that started the re-in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Nie’s trial.

What if Wang was not caught or did not ad­mit he was guilty?

We can pre­vent others from suf­fer­ing Nie’s tragic fate by strength­en­ing the rule of law.

In the in­ter­view after the re­trial, the lead­ing of­fi­cial of the Supreme Peo­ple’s Court said the coun­try’s top lead­er­ship has been deep­en­ing ju­di­cial re­form, strength­en­ing ju­di­cial pro­tec­tion to hu­man rights, and pay­ing greater at­ten­tion to the correction and pre­ven­tion of wrong sen­tences.

In Oc­to­ber 2014, the Fourth Ple­nary Ses­sion of the 18th Cen­tral Com­mit­tee of the Com­mu­nist Party of China vowed to com­pre­hen­sively pro­mote the rule of law and en­cour­age the en­tire na­tion to work to­gether to achieve that goal.

Nie’s case is a les­son for the ju­di­ciary, the Supreme Peo­ple’s Court of­fi­cial said, which will help the courts to bet­ter pro­tect the le­gal rights of sus­pects in the fu­ture, so as to pre­vent sim­i­lar tragedies.

The He­bei pro­vin­cial peo­ple’s court, which passed the sen­tence against Nie in 1995, said it would start the prepa­ra­tions to pay State com­pen­sa­tion to Nie’s fam­ily, and will in­ves­ti­gate to find out whether court of­fi­cials vi­o­lated the law in deal­ing with Nie’s case. If the law was bro­ken, those re­spon­si­ble will face due pu­n­ish­ments.

We hope the on­go­ing ef­forts to cor­rect past wrongs achieve suc­cess, and the rule of law is fur­ther strength­ened so that peo­ple like Nie and their fam­i­lies do not suf­fer.

The au­thor is a writer with China Daily. zhangzhoux­i­ang@chi­

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