October 10, 2016 / 4:37 AM / 3 years ago

China tries again to stop confessions through torture

BEIJING (Reuters) - Suspects must not be forced into confessing crimes and any evidence collected this way excluded from legal cases, the Chinese government said on Monday in its latest effort to try and stamp out the widespread practice.

China has long tried to eliminate a problem that regularly attracts international condemnation and has put a brake on China’s efforts to have corruption suspects who have fled to Western countries extradited.

A joint statement issued by the Supreme Court, state prosecutor, public security, state security and justice ministries said the use of violence, threats or other illegal methods to obtain evidence or confessions must end.

“If investigating organs’ collection of material and documentary evidence does not accord with the legally set process, it could seriously affect justice,” it said.

“Prevent forced confessions, and do not force any person to verify their crimes,” the document, released by the official Xinhua news agency, said.

All interviews with suspects must be recorded and evidence extracted under torture would be ruled inadmissible, it said.

This is not the first time China has tried to eliminate the use of torture and forced confessions in its legal system, with the Supreme Court making similar comments in 2013.

Rights advocates have long called on China to better safeguard the rights of the accused.

Coercing confessions through torture and other means is a persistent practice, with some defendants in high-profile cases confessing to crimes in public before trials have taken place.

Several defendants caught up in an ongoing crackdown on human rights lawyers have appeared on state television confessing to details of their crimes.

While it has been impossible to verify whether these televised confessions were made under duress, the practice has drawn concern from rights groups and Western capitals.

Torture has also been a problem in the ruling Communist Party’s own internal judicial system, laid bare in a 2013 case in which six interrogators were charged with drowning a man by repeatedly dunking him in a bucket of ice-cold water.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Paul Tait

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