China Clarifies Inmate Rights in Death Penalty Cases

By Matthew Bossons, August 12, 2019

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In an effort to improve the protection of death row inmates’ rights and welfare, China’s Supreme People’s Court released a new guideline on August 9 to clarify and control capital punishment “review and execution procedures,” according to China Daily.

Set to take effect on September 1, the guideline is composed of 13 articles and states, among other things, that inmates nearing the date of their execution are only able to meet with close family members – including spouses and children. More distant relatives, as well as friends, are also allowed to meet with a death row inmate “subject to reason.”

The guideline goes on to state that courts are responsible for informing convicts on death row that they have the right to meet with family, and, if a person refuses an invitation to visit an inmate, the incarcerated individual must also be notified. Meetings with children or family members under 18 years of age require parental approval; video calls can be arranged after review if it is concluded that an in-person meeting may harm a child’s psychological wellbeing.

In addition to noting that condemned individuals’ last words can be recorded in audio or video format, the China Daily article states that the Supreme People’s Court is “reviewing the death penalty itself,” although no further details are provided.

READ MORE: Canadian Sentenced to Death for Drug Trafficking in South China

In China, it is not uncommon for lower level, local courts to sentence criminals to death, although all sentences involving capital punishment must be submitted for approval to the nation’s top court.

This review process began in 2007, when, for the first time in more than 20 years, China decreed that all death sentences must be submitted to the Supreme People’s Court for final approval. The intention was to bring consistency to the assignment of life-ending punishments and reduce the number of executions.

While most of the people handed the death penalty in China are convicted of murder or drug crimes, China’s top court announced last month that those involved in “extremely vile” sexual assault against children will be sentenced to death.

On the same day as the announcement, convicted rapist He Long was executed in Shandong province. He was found guilty of raping girls under 14 years of age and forcing them into prostitution, according to Xinhua.

Statistics on the number of executions carried out in China each year are not released by the Central Government in Beijing.

READ MORE: China to Develop National Child Sex Offender Database

[Cover image via Pixabay]

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