Min­istry moves to pre­vent tor­ture, pro­tect rights, but le­gal ex­perts call for shake-up

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By CAO YIN caoyin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Al­most a decade ago, po­lice in Yun­nan prov­ince re­ported that an in­mate at a de­ten­tion house had died dur­ing a game of hide-and-seek. Li Qiaom­ing, a sus­pected tree thief, had ac­tu­ally been beaten to death by fel­low in­mates.

The in­ci­dent in Fe­bru­ary 2009 out­raged the pub­lic and led to ques­tions over the man­age­ment at such fa­cil­i­ties, which are used to hold crim­i­nal sus­pects and peo­ple con­victed of mi­nor of­fenses.

Since then, the Min­istry of Pub­lic Se­cu­rity, which runs the de­ten­tion sys­tem, says it has in­creased ef­forts to avoid sim­i­lar tragedies as well as pre­vent tor­ture and other im­proper be­hav­ior by po­lice of­fi­cers.

The lat­est move was the re­lease of a draft de­ten­tion house law last month. If ap­proved, it would re­quire at least two po­lice of­fi­cers to be present dur­ing in­ter­ro­ga­tions, which must also be recorded, while po­lice would be for­bid­den from lis­ten­ing to con­ver­sa­tions be­tween sus­pects and their lawyers.

The min­istry said the law is aimed at avoid­ing wrong­ful con­vic­tions. Yet, in re­sponse, le­gal ex­perts have ques­tioned whether pub­lic se­cu­rity author­i­ties should have any in­volve­ment in the man­age­ment of de­ten­tion houses.

“In­ves­ti­ga­tion and cus­tody must be separate. Other­wise, it’s too easy for the po­lice to abuse their author­ity and force

The root of the tor­ture is the de­ten­tion house, and the crux of wrong­ful cases is the un­reg­u­lated man­age­ment of these places.” Fan Zhongyi, pro­fes­sor at China Univer­sity of Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence and Law

a con­fes­sion,” said Tian Wen­chang, a crim­i­nal at­tor­ney with King and Cap­i­tal Law Firm in Bei­jing. “De­ten­tion houses should be in­de­pen­dent.”

Fan Chongyi, a law pro­fes­sor spe­cial­iz­ing in pro­ce­dural law at the China Univer­sity of Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence and Law, has drafted a re­port that he says proves de­ten­tion houses would be bet­ter man­aged by ju­di­cial administrations, which run the na­tion’s pris­ons.

China’s cen­tral lead­er­ship has con­tin­u­ously high­lighted the need to com­bat the tor­ture of sus­pects, and so far it has over­turned 34 wrong­ful con­vic­tions.

“But the root of the tor­ture is the de­ten­tion house, and the crux of wrong­ful cases is the un­reg­u­lated man­age­ment of these places,” Fan said.

Ac­cord­ing to the Crim­i­nal

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